The Covid-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for business to restructure and to pursue purpose-driven leadership and strategies, which includes creating shared value for all stakeholders.
This will not only help in weathering the current difficulties, but will also position companies well for a sustainable future.
This was indicated by speakers during a session on the first day of the Africa Shared Value Leadership eSummit, on June 2.
Moderated by Radio 702 talk show host Eusebius McKaizer, the discussions brought together CEOs from across the continent, including Old Mutual Group CEO Iain Williamson, South African Presidential Special Envoy and Global Citizen ambassador Jeff Radebe, Discovery Life South Africa CEO Hylton Kallner, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) CEO Clare Akamanzi, Rwanda Private Sector Federation (PSF) CEO Stephen Ruzibiza, Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, Global End Fund CEO Ellen Agler, Tony Elumelu Foundation CEO Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, BOC Gases CEO Marion Gathoga and WDB Investment Holdings CEO Faith Khanyile.
Ruzibiza advised businesses to use the crisis to reposition themselves to create shared value. He noted that this could come about through organisations being flexible; staying ahead of challenges; and contributing rather than taking away from all stakeholders.
Creating shared value means creating economic value, while simultaneously addressing the needs and challenges in society.
Agler mentioned that the nonprofit sector had always looked to the private sector for operational learnings, such as in terms of efficiencies.
However, she noted that now, the situation had been reversed and businesses were looking to nonprofit organisations to see what they could learn in terms of having a passionate, committed workforce that thought in terms of social good; and tried to have an impact not just in terms of the bottom line, but broad-based stakeholders. The pandemic had therefore led to broad-based shared learnings across sectors.
Ndegwa noted that just as diversity in organisations had proven to lead to more successful organisations, those that were purpose driven were more likely to be more sustainable in the long term.
He indicated that the pandemic presented an opportunity to build on the momentum of driving purpose driven leadership.
Ugochukwu said it was important to remember that organisations were made up of humans and, therefore, should reflect their purposes and values.
She emphasised the importance of each person, in their personal capacity, connecting to a core purpose, and this being translated into shared value across the organisation. This purpose meant a desire to leave the world a better place than before, whether it was social or environment.
Kallner noted that while corporate social initiatives were good, these were often not sustainable, and in times of crises, especially with financial tensions, were typically the first instances of discretionary spending to be seen as easily dispensable.
By contrast, creating shared value was more sustainable.
Akamanzi noted that there were often tensions between different groups of stakeholders, including private business, labour, government and civil society.
However, the pandemic had offered the opportunity to reposition the role leaders and other stakeholders held in society, through it showing that everyone was fundamentally tied together and could be affected regardless of their role in society.
Radebe called for all entities, including CEOs and leaders, to find their shared humanness or sense of “Ubuntu”.
He also indicated that the summit aligned with the goals of Global Citizen. The organisation will be holding a global virtual summit on June 27, which will convene philanthropists, leaders, governments, and others to commit and pledge to ensuring that people across the globe have access to vaccines and treatments to ensure that Covid-19 was eradicated.
Radebe called on these CEOs to ensure they and their colleagues in business commited to such initiatives in the fight against Covid-19.
Speakers also emphasised the importance of having these initiatives and leadership strategies underpinned by values of justice, especially in light of the recent incidents occurring in terms of police brutality.