THE BUSINESS THAT RESCUES IN TIMES OF COVID-19

by Bozhidara Georgieva

The importance of leadership and how to develop it in ourselves and the others is one of the most covered topics in business-oriented seminars, public lectures, articles, textbooks, scientific research papers and self-help books. In a matter of weeks at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak in Bulgaria scores of companies and NGOs of all sizes and kinds demonstrated what is true leadership in real-life conditions. Concerned not only about the health of their employees, clients and their families, but also for the whole society, the private and the public sector behaved proactively. Companies and organisation took the initiative and acted quickly and effectively, investing time and valuable resources to minimise the negative effect of the state of emergency and the social distancing measures over the economy and public health.

As a result, the actions of the private and the NGO sector created the feel of community, in which individual citizens and organisations make a whole organism. Everyone in it understood that they are responsible not only for their own health and wellbeing, but also for the health and wellbeing of the others. In a couple of weeks Bulgaria became a country where companies took some financial burden off their employees and clients, firms donated money, PPE and medicines to hospitals, volunteers brought food to lonely people, and actors and musicians gave away their art.

The initial efforts of socially responsible companies and organisations were targeted towards solving the imminent need of PPE, tests, food for the people on the first line of response. Some companies donated to the hospitals where the fight with the pandemic was concentrated. Others, together with thousands of ordinary citizens, participated in the United Against Covid-19 initiative that successfully raised about 1 million leva (at the time when this publication went to print) not only for PPE, but also for funding NGO projects for helping communities affected by the pandemic.

The care of socially responsible companies went further, including to protecting the health of their employees with providing PPE to staff and disinfection of work spaces, and reorganising of the work process toward home-office. In spite of the losses caused by the closure of hotels, restaurants and cafés, companies in this field donated food and money to hospitals and people suffering from the social distancing measures. Clothing manufacturers started to produce, and even to donate, face masks, and printing houses changed their work process and started making face screens.

Small and big shops and stores, banks and other businesses that stayed open during the state of emergency took impressive measures to provide safe conditions both for their employees and clients. They introduced obligatory distance keeping, PPE and disinfection, controlled access to their premises and worked tirelessly to compensate the shortages of some products caused by stockpiling. Companies whose business was directly affected by the state of emergency, but who valued their employees did all they could to provide their staff with salaries even when they do not work – by using internal resources or applying for state help.

Suppliers considering the difficulties that their business partners faced made some of their products free or significantly lowered their prices. Landlords offered lower rents to corporate tenants to help them deal with the crisis.

The Covid-19 outbreak helped each of us individually and the socially responsible businesses to realise more strongly than ever how deeply are we interconnected in our society, and how important it is to be responsible and to take well-informed decisions. An invisible virus helped us to realise how vulnerable the complex civilisation that we have created is, and how important it is to fight for it. The crisis allowed us to understand as well that with the united effort of the state, the citizens and the socially responsible business we can overcome even the biggest challenges.

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