COVID-19 Outbreak: A Public Policy Guide for Businesses
The COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), puts a strain on individuals, communities, and organizations around the globe as the most unpredictable exogenous shock that the world has seen in the past several decades. Businesses will inevitably be impacted by the unprecedented disruptions - now and in the foreseeable future. This is the first article - focusing on public policy angle - in CORPERA's three-part series that explains what businesses can do to manage their political, social and labor issues.
How COVID-19 Outbreak Changes Your Public Policy Environment
There is a fundamental reason that governments exist: to protect our safety and increase our well-being. In times of extraordinary periods such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we rely on them to fulfill their duty. To do that quickly, governments adopt more direct and interventionist measures. As a consequence, the discretionary powers of public authorities increase. In other words, policies and regulations that would normally be deemed unnecessary or too restrictive are implemented in situations like this.
Among these measures could be restrictions to travel, transportation, trade of goods and services, public gathering, use of certain properties and cross-border transactions. For the sake of public order and health, public authorities may also request businesses to provide certain products and services uninterruptedly and without immediate commercial returns. Furthermore, those decisions are likely to be taken without a comprehensive consultation and prior notice. Therefore, most organizations can be caught off guard by the severity of measures against Coronavirus outbreak.
Public Policy Strategies for COVID-19
This is unchartered territory for most businesses. Therefore, organizations should develop new perspectives to manage their public policy environment. We categorized two sets of strategies and related actions.
1. Compliant: Business Continuity
• The most important task of public policy strategy is to assess government policies and regulations concerning their impact on business continuity. Since businesses have no other option than being fully compliant, we suggest the following actions:
• Designate a single point of contact in your organization for all public policy matters. This person should be responsible to gather publicly available information conveyed by public authorities, as well as to reach out to government institutions whenever necessary.
• Establish a cross-functional team where the insight of your public policy contact is assessed with regards to your business operations, including sales, supply chain, production, and administrative matters.
• Develop a public policy risk matrix that identifies possible scenarios and their impacts on your business. Request information from each business function to determine their likelihood of being impacted by certain government measures.
• Monitor international benchmarks and how other governments respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Try to understand your government's mindset and risk management approach to predict its subsequent measures.
2. Proactive: Business Responsibility
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. In difficult times, it is a moral and social obligation for powerful organizations to take action. It also helps businesses position themselves as responsible and reliable organizations that governments and communities can count on. To do this, executives should assess how their business can complement the efforts of the public authorities by applying their products and services, as well as taking additional measures. Consider the following actions:
• Identify your products or services that you think your stakeholders need more than ever during COVID-19. Ensure that they are available for all. Consider giving some portions for free especially for the sensitive groups as a social responsibility.
• Be fully transparent and candid about the requests that come from the government regarding the use of your business assets. Tell them how you can help and which actions go beyond your capabilities.
• Communicate how you cooperate with public authorities without turning your actions into a marketing campaign. Tell your customers and employees about your efforts and recognize their contribution.
• Whenever possible, inform and encourage your stakeholders (customers, employees, NGOs, etc.) about the government actions and their consequences.
If you have a question or need assistance to manage your public policy, social impact and labor relations issues during COVID-19, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get FREE advice. We will be glad to help as much as we can.
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