‘Corporate behaviour matters now more than ever. Reputations will be won and lost in the battleground of Covid-19’

It is often said that in times of crisis we see both the best and the worst of people. For every local café owner delivering free meals to the vulnerable, there is a con artist seeking to gain from the chaos and confusion around us. This trend is amplified in the corporate world, which is divided into those who have sought to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic to their advantage and those who have used their resources as a force for good.

A particularly dispiriting story in today’s Telegraph reveals a growing number of companies that have abused the UK’s much-lauded furlough scheme, while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of employers insisting staff return to work despite being unable offering inadequate safety provision. Even if there is insufficient legal recourse for those who have played the system, it is unlikely that they will emerge with the reputations intact. As we all share in the pain of Covid-19, companies must work harder than ever to earn and maintain the trust of consumers and employees.

In an editorial today, the @FT argues that now is the time to emerge as a “saint rather than sinner”. The article states that the global pandemic has forced an abrupt rethink of responsible capitalism and that the businesses to emerge from it stronger will need to embrace environmental, social and governance issues with more commitment than ever.

Kimberly Lewis, director of engagement at global investment house @FederatedHermes says “A company’s actions in a crisis are the epitome of determining what its business purpose is. Companies can decide to react ethically and put society more broadly before potential short-term profits.” Her own conversations with executives will centre on how they treat their staff and suppliers, and in some cases how effectively they retool operations to help health services and governments respond to coronavirus, she says.

The real estate media has played a vital role during this pandemic in encouraging good behaviour and holding the industry to account. Both @PropertyWeek and @EstatesGazette this week called for a ‘kinder’ industry in recognition of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and are actively encouraging us all to use this opportunity to emerge from this crisis as a kinder, more responsible and more inclusive industry. Those who embrace this change are likely to ultimately emerge stronger, more trusted and better respected.​

Simon Stretch, Director, Innesco


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