The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is creating the worst humanitarian and economic crisis in a generation, threatening the lives, livelihoods and learning of people around the world. Government leadership is crucial, but companies and civil society organizations also have a vital role in working together to respond to the immediate crisis and develop plans for longer-term recovery and resilience. This includes the urgent need for concerted action to support the most vulnerable people.
COVID-19 poses risks for everyone and the impacts across all aspects of life will be profound and long-lasting for every segment of society. They are especially serious for those who are most vulnerable: the elderly and those suffering from underlying health conditions; those with poor access to affordable health services, insurance or savings; those in low-income, informal and insecure jobs or independent workers; and those who are providing healthcare and other essential services.
The human costs are already scaling rapidly across the most advanced economies, and the human toll in less developed economies with weak health systems and institutions, and lack of social safety nets is likely to be devastating.
Government leadership at every level – multilateral, national, regional and local – will be the deciding factor in how effectively the immediate humanitarian and economic crisis is managed, and in supporting longer-term recovery and resilience. At the same time, business and civic leaders have a vital role to play, both individually and in partnership with others, even as many of them are having to focus on addressing their own operational continuity, financial and supply chain resilience and other systemic risks and challenges.
From a company perspective, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights is more essential than it has ever been. This includes protecting the health, safety and livelihoods of direct employees and supporting the company’s most vulnerable stakeholders among its customers, workers and small business partners in its value chain, and its communities. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights offer useful guidance.
There is also an urgent need for companies to identify and scale up innovative solutions, through their core business capabilities and operations, philanthropy and social investments and their engagement in policy dialogue and helping to strengthen institutions.
In this paper, we set out a COVID-19 Response Framework for how businesses can support the most vulnerable. The framework builds on the excellent analytical work that has already been done in the last couple of weeks by McKinsey, the World Economic Forum, and others, and draws on the experience of our own two organizations and the companies we work with.
This Response Framework is intended to support a process of rapid shared learning and co-creation. We hope that it will provide a useful framing for practical conversations, and will inform coalition building and local action.
The paper forms one part of a wider response that we are convening to crowdsource and share best-practice examples and insights from a variety of companies, industry sectors and countries. It is accompanied by an active program of online events and virtual peer group convenings.
We are developing a live database of business case studies, mapped across the Response Framework, as well as topic- and sector-specific practical toolkits to guide immediate and longer-term decision-making.
We are working with an international coalition of partners, businesses and business networks. This includes the UK Department for International Development, the UNDP Business Call to Action, and Business Partners for Sustainable Development, an initiative of the US Council for International Business (USCIB) and the USCIB Foundation. We are supported by a core group of companies and are partnering with a wide range of expert organizations and networks.
The work is grounded in local action, and we are connecting into national coalitions. This includes the Kenyan National Business Compact on COVID-19 that is developing a unified communication platform on handwashing and other measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, as well as a flexi-fund to support government-prioritized community activation. Our aim is to facilitate and learn from local action.
We invite other individuals, businesses, civil society organizations, government agencies and networks to get involved to scale this collective effort to drive global learning and local action.
We invite you to get involved at https://snipbfp.org/coronavirus