During the ongoing coronavirus crisis, we have seen several public demonstrations of corporate kindness. Many companies are going above and beyond when it comes to social responsibility, surprising onlookers with donations and shows of solidarity. And these actions, I believe, are more than just marketing.

Itaú Bank donated a billion reals ($195 million) to combat Covid-19, working with a team of health specialists to manage and apply their resources. Cielo, a Brazilian credit and debit card operator, promised to offer up to five billion reals ($933 million) in credit to help small and medium-sized enterprises survive. Decathlon, a retailer specializing in sporting goods, donated its entire Brazilian stock of Easybreath snorkel masks, which can be adapted to serve as breathing support for patients or protection equipment for health workers in hospitals.

Our current historical moment demands more humanity from both individuals and companies. Which has only intensified a trend that was already picking up steam: the rise of personal and corporate purpose.

This means setting up goals that go beyond sustenance and financial gain. For instance: social progress, sustainable development, or environmental protection. As mental health professionals have noted, giving our everyday activities more meaning and understanding the broader relevance of our jobs can be sources of genuine happiness and fulfillment.

The future is here – albeit a bit earlier than expected.

Those postponing remote work were forced to embrace it.  What some organizations thought was a distant dream quickly became a reality.

At the Brazilian Institute for Corporate Governance, experienced consultants saw an immediate need for home office and remote learning. They were able to put new tools into place within two weeks. The context demands that we counteract inertia and adapt to change.

Other companies, like Lojas Renner, gave home office a trial run – only to immediately declare it the only way to work. And this without any loss to productivity or employee commitment.

It is only natural for challenging periods, such as this one, to make us reflect on how we live and do things, and to encourage us to follow new strategies. Every crisis allows us to prove our capacity for creativity and adaptability.

Take the textile manufacturer Alpargatas, which started selling face masks and medical coats. Or Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Scania, which began making both masks and respirators. Or Weg, now making respirator replacement parts.

Here at Olivia, we have always told our clients to move “beyond their limits.” This phrase hoped to spur them into action and inspire them to believe in themselves and in their ability to grow by changing their methodologies, internal processes, and (especially) their corporate culture. 

But the current crisis is already putting everyone to the test. In this context, the need for change is more pressing than ever. And this entails actual change, not just a plan for it. We need to go “beyond words.”

Now more than ever, our promises should be backed up by actions. Thanks to technology, we have plenty of means at our disposal to get started on the path to change.

During the pandemic, we need to analyze our priorities. The goal is to survive – and help those around us do the same. We need to cultivate virtue. To take care of our internal customers so they can do likewise with our external customers. And not just now, during the pandemic, but always.

At Luiza Magazine, every employee’s ID card reads: “Do for others what you’d like others to do for you.” The company recently donated 10 million reals to support efforts against Covid-19. Furthermore, its leadership focused on making sure employees kept their jobs. Along with other one thousand companies, Luiza joined the #nights movement, which encouraged executives to avoid reducing their workforces.

Reputation is built one day at a time. In a time of crisis, actions speak particularly louder than words. More than a digital transformation, what society and businesses have been going through, for this past year, is an accelerated cultural transformation.

Our current moment can be defined in three stages:

  • Conscience: Understand the intangible value of your business. Recognize who is a part of it and what will keep you operational in the market.
  • Sustainability: Identify what is superfluous and what is essential. Take a back-to-basics approach and determine what you can cut back, and what processes and behaviors you can restructure, without affecting your workforce.
  • Recovery: Admit there is a new reality out there. But also know that, despite all the known unknowns ahead of us, there are ways to act in tune with our emotions, to be quick in our decision-making, and to be flexible in our search for alternatives.

Recently, our team of partners and consultants at Olivia organized a virtual workshop with over 100 professionals from 60 companies and five Latin American countries. Together, we discussed solutions to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and its negative effects. By stimulating collaboration between companies that usually compete against each other, we came up with several ideas to flatten the spread of infection.

Outside of this collaborative effort, every one of our partners has worked to transform society at large. For my part, since 2018, I have dedicated my time and know-how to support investors seeking to make an impact.

Sure, one swallow does not make a summer. And you could argue the cases listed above do not constitute a trend. But I believe that, after the pandemic is over, we will all be better prepared for unpredictable, uncertain, and ambiguous situations. And companies as well as people will be more human, more conscious of their effect on others, more aware of their social responsibilities, and more committed to making the world a better place.

By Reynaldo Naves, Olivia Brasil partner


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