疫情是大考,具有社会责任的企业能更好生存

 新闻资讯     |      2020-04-27 07:59

美国强生宣布,公司的新冠疫苗预计将于9月进行人体临床试验。这一消息不出意外赢得了一片喝彩,强生股价随即应声上涨6.5%。考虑到这款疫苗将作为非营利药物上市,董事会八成正为股市的积极反应欣喜不已。投资者释放出了明确的信号:当前的环境下,一家愿意拯救社会而不是借机大赚一笔的企业值得投资。

当然,面对眼下的危机,一些企业的股东只能通过减薪、裁员等严酷措施来稳定现金流。受疫情冲击最严重的企业可能别无选择,尤其是旅游、零售和餐饮企业。

但是,激进投资者正在发挥另一层作用。如今投资者开始探究,首席执行官们正在采取哪些措施,保护员工、客户、供应商和地球生态系统。越来越多的人开始认为,那些负责任的企业、那些照顾所有利益相关者而不仅仅只关心股东的企业、那些努力追寻比利润更重要的目标的企业,可能处于更有利的地位,可以更好地应对眼下的健康危机和即将来临的经济衰退。

这点也有助于解释为何ESG(环境、社会和治理)基金的表现一直优于传统基金。全球最大资产管理公司贝莱德集团的拉里·芬克在最近致股东的一封信中表示,此次危机是一个重新平衡投资组合、加速向更可持续世界转变的机会。投资界明白,企业董事需要对应对紧迫的压力,但越来越多的人也开始希望董事持续关注自己对社会和环境的长期影响。

这很明智。为什么拥有多方利益相关者的负责企业更有能力渡过充满挑战的时期?本文认为有四点原因。

首先是稳健的财务状况。不信奉股东至上主义的企业往往会避免资产负债表出现过度杠杆,能够抵制过度股票回购和特别股息的诱惑。这类企业现在可能更有能力从资本市场获取资金。例如当前不景气的经济环境下,联合利华和Engie共筹集了45亿欧元(合约49亿美元)资金;而卡夫亨氏、波音等其他公司却因为过度杠杆化,不得不以巨额成本申请信贷额度,造成了更高的风险。

第二,通过医疗保健、病假工资等方式对员工加以投资的企业,将拥有更加忠诚、更加敬业的员工队伍并从中获益。在当前的压力下,这些员工会愿意付出额外的努力,确保业务连贯展开,保护企业的资产和声誉。

第三,将供应商视作合作伙伴、当下积极保护自身价值链的企业,将更少受到经营中断之虞。等到经济最终重启后,它们将占据优势地位。

第四,这些企业在公众舆论方面的表现更好。近期的《爱德曼信任度调查特别报告》在调查全球1.2万人后发现,三分之一的消费者已经开始惩罚那些未能好好应对此次危机的品牌,选择不再购买这些品牌的产品。

令人惊讶的是,媒体正在高调报道私营部门的各种好坏行为。前一分钟法国奢侈品巨头路威酩轩集团还在因为利用旗下香水工厂生产免费洗手液而大受赞扬,后一分钟公司就因为考虑申请政府援助而受到了批评。今年2月,亚马逊首席执行官杰夫·贝佐斯承诺投资100亿美元抗击气候,被赞为英雄;到了3月,亚马逊员工因为个人防护装备不足、危险工作津贴不佳而闹起了罢工,又把公司推上了新闻焦点。企业声誉来之不易,却很容易丢失。

除了眼下的困境,拥有多方利益相关者的企业可能也有更好的条件应对未来其他的不确定。不要误解我的意思,无数投机分子和机会主义者将会利用即将到来的全球经济危机谋利。但扪心自问,你认为哪种企业最适合应对疫情后难以预测的环境?

新冠危机过后,世界将变得和以前截然不同。在发放过巨额救助金后,许多政府可能会更加关注企业的行为和表现。随着财政赤字增加,公司税收也会水涨船高。自由贸易的未来方向面临着严重的问题。社会内部和不同社会之间的不平等将会进一步加剧,社会动荡也将随之加剧。

面对不确定的未来,灵活机敏的应变能力将是企业最好的资产。如果首席执行官能够迅速采用360°视角全方位看待问题,和员工、价值链以及范围更广的社会关系更加融洽,那么他们制定策略时会带有一定的感性和人道色彩,而那些只关心狭隘财务回报的人不会。

如果企业高管能够放下自尊,与竞争对手、民间团体和官方机构结成开明联盟,他们将可以更好地应对秉承干涉主义的政府和两极分化的政治钟摆。

这些企业会发现,创造一个更公平、更可持续社会的迫切需要不仅没有消失,反而大幅增加了。

新冠会成为负责任企业脱颖而出的分水岭吗?现在还很难说。但是从现在开始,那些不止关注下个季度表现的企业、那些看到更远大图景的企业、那些展现出同情心和灵活能力的企业,显然将会走上更好的发展道路。我知道我该把钱投给哪些企业了。

美国强生宣布,公司的新冠疫苗预计将于9月进行人体临床试验。这一消息不出意外赢得了一片喝彩,强生股价随即应声上涨6.5%。考虑到这款疫苗将作为非营利药物上市,董事会八成正为股市的积极反应欣喜不已。投资者释放出了明确的信号:当前的环境下,一家愿意拯救社会而不是借机大赚一笔的企业值得投资。

当然,面对眼下的危机,一些企业的股东只能通过减薪、裁员等严酷措施来稳定现金流。受疫情冲击最严重的企业可能别无选择,尤其是旅游、零售和餐饮企业。

但是,激进投资者正在发挥另一层作用。如今投资者开始探究,首席执行官们正在采取哪些措施,保护员工、客户、供应商和地球生态系统。越来越多的人开始认为,那些负责任的企业、那些照顾所有利益相关者而不仅仅只关心股东的企业、那些努力追寻比利润更重要的目标的企业,可能处于更有利的地位,可以更好地应对眼下的健康危机和即将来临的经济衰退。

这点也有助于解释为何ESG(环境、社会和治理)基金的表现一直优于传统基金。全球最大资产管理公司贝莱德集团的拉里·芬克在最近致股东的一封信中表示,此次危机是一个重新平衡投资组合、加速向更可持续世界转变的机会。投资界明白,企业董事需要对应对紧迫的压力,但越来越多的人也开始希望董事持续关注自己对社会和环境的长期影响。

这很明智。为什么拥有多方利益相关者的负责企业更有能力渡过充满挑战的时期?本文认为有四点原因。

首先是稳健的财务状况。不信奉股东至上主义的企业往往会避免资产负债表出现过度杠杆,能够抵制过度股票回购和特别股息的诱惑。这类企业现在可能更有能力从资本市场获取资金。例如当前不景气的经济环境下,联合利华和Engie共筹集了45亿欧元(合约49亿美元)资金;而卡夫亨氏、波音等其他公司却因为过度杠杆化,不得不以巨额成本申请信贷额度,造成了更高的风险。

第二,通过医疗保健、病假工资等方式对员工加以投资的企业,将拥有更加忠诚、更加敬业的员工队伍并从中获益。在当前的压力下,这些员工会愿意付出额外的努力,确保业务连贯展开,保护企业的资产和声誉。

第三,将供应商视作合作伙伴、当下积极保护自身价值链的企业,将更少受到经营中断之虞。等到经济最终重启后,它们将占据优势地位。

第四,这些企业在公众舆论方面的表现更好。近期的《爱德曼信任度调查特别报告》在调查全球1.2万人后发现,三分之一的消费者已经开始惩罚那些未能好好应对此次危机的品牌,选择不再购买这些品牌的产品。

令人惊讶的是,媒体正在高调报道私营部门的各种好坏行为。前一分钟法国奢侈品巨头路威酩轩集团还在因为利用旗下香水工厂生产免费洗手液而大受赞扬,后一分钟公司就因为考虑申请政府援助而受到了批评。今年2月,亚马逊首席执行官杰夫·贝佐斯承诺投资100亿美元抗击气候,被赞为英雄;到了3月,亚马逊员工因为个人防护装备不足、危险工作津贴不佳而闹起了罢工,又把公司推上了新闻焦点。企业声誉来之不易,却很容易丢失。

除了眼下的困境,拥有多方利益相关者的企业可能也有更好的条件应对未来其他的不确定。不要误解我的意思,无数投机分子和机会主义者将会利用即将到来的全球经济危机谋利。但扪心自问,你认为哪种企业最适合应对疫情后难以预测的环境?

新冠危机过后,世界将变得和以前截然不同。在发放过巨额救助金后,许多政府可能会更加关注企业的行为和表现。随着财政赤字增加,公司税收也会水涨船高。自由贸易的未来方向面临着严重的问题。社会内部和不同社会之间的不平等将会进一步加剧,社会动荡也将随之加剧。

面对不确定的未来,灵活机敏的应变能力将是企业最好的资产。如果首席执行官能够迅速采用360°视角全方位看待问题,和员工、价值链以及范围更广的社会关系更加融洽,那么他们制定策略时会带有一定的感性和人道色彩,而那些只关心狭隘财务回报的人不会。

如果企业高管能够放下自尊,与竞争对手、民间团体和官方机构结成开明联盟,他们将可以更好地应对秉承干涉主义的政府和两极分化的政治钟摆。

这些企业会发现,创造一个更公平、更可持续社会的迫切需要不仅没有消失,反而大幅增加了。

新冠会成为负责任企业脱颖而出的分水岭吗?现在还很难说。但是从现在开始,那些不止关注下个季度表现的企业、那些看到更远大图景的企业、那些展现出同情心和灵活能力的企业,显然将会走上更好的发展道路。我知道我该把钱投给哪些企业了。

It’s no surprise that Johnson Johnson won plaudits when it announced its prospective COVID-19 vaccine should go to human clinical trials by September. Given the drug will be available not-for-profit, the ensuing 6.5% share price hike must have put wide smiles on the board’s faces. The message from investors was clear: In the current climate, a company coming to society’s rescue without enriching itself is a solid bet.

Of course, in times such as these, some corporate backers will only be calmed by draconian measures to shore up cash flow, including pay cuts and layoffs. Firms hit hardest by the pandemic, particularly in travel and tourism, retail or restaurants, may have little other choice.

But being an active investor is taking on another meaning. Investors are now asking what CEOs are doing to protect their wider ecosystems of staff, customers, suppliers, and the planet. There is a growing view that responsible businesses—those which look after all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders, and which strive to serve a purpose bigger than profits—may be better placed already to weather the immediate health crisis and economic downturn ahead.

This helps explain why ESG (environmental, social, and governance) funds have been outperforming conventional rivals. In a recent letter to shareholders, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, the world’s largest asset manager, presented the crisis as an opportunity to rebalance portfolios and accelerate the shift to a more sustainable world. The investment community recognises the need for directors to respond to urgent pressures, but increasingly expects them to keep focused on their longer-term social and environmental impact, too.

This is smart. There are four reasons why responsible, multi-stakeholder businesses are more likely to show resilience in challenging times.

The first relates to sound finances. Companies that have broken with the doctrine of shareholder primacy tend to avoid overleveraging their balance sheets, resisting the lure of excessive share buybacks and special dividends. Those firms may now prove more able to access the capital markets, as seen when Unilever and Engie raised 4.5 billion (around $4.9 billion) combined despite the current slump. Others, including Kraft Heinz and Boeing, are having to call on lines of credit at tremendous expense because their companies are already overleveraged, creating higher risk.

Second, businesses that invest in their employees, including health care and sick pay, will benefit from a more loyal and engaged workforce. That’s a workforce willing to go the extra mile to assure business continuity and protect corporate assets and reputation during these times of stress.

Third, companies that treat their suppliers like partners, and are now actively protecting their value chains, will see less disruption and be at an advantage when the economy eventually restarts.

Fourth, these companies fare better in the court of public opinion. One in three consumers are already punishing brands for responding poorly to the crisis by no longer buying from those brands, according to a recent Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report that surveyed 12,000 people globally.

And it is striking how loudly the media is noting good and bad private sector behavior. One minute French luxury goods giant LVMH is praised for using its perfume factories to produce free hand sanitizer, the next it’s criticized for considering state aid. In February, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was a hero for pledging $10 billion to fight climate change. By March, Amazon was back in the news for staff walkouts over insufficient personal protective equipment and unsatisfactory hazard pay. Corporate reputations are hard won and easily lost.

Beyond today’s troubles, multi-stakeholder firms may also be better equipped for uncertain times ahead. Don’t get me wrong, countless profiteers and opportunists will capitalize on the coming misery in the global economy. But ask yourself, which kinds of companies will be best placed to navigate the unpredictability of the post-pandemic environment?

The world which emerges from this COVID-19 crisis will look different. Having handed out huge bailouts, many governments are likely to take a much greater interest in businesses’ behavior and performance. As fiscal deficits rise, so too will corporate taxes. Serious questions hang over the future direction of open trade. Inequality will grow in and between societies, and so will social unrest.

In this undetermined future, agility will be a company’s best asset. CEOs who quickly adopt a 360-degree view and become more attuned to their employees, value chains, and wider society will maneuver with a degree of sensitivity and humanity not open to those still focused solely on narrow financial returns.

C-suites able to put ego aside and forge enlightened alliances with their competitors, civil society, and official agencies will be better positioned to deal with interventionist governments and the pendulum of polarized politics.

And these companies will recognise that the pressing need to create a more equitable and sustainable society has not gone away, but dramatically increased.

Will coronavirus be a watershed moment for responsible business? Too soon to tell. But from this moment it’s certainly plausible that firms which think beyond the next quarter, see the bigger picture, and display compassion and dexterity are on a better path. I know who my money’s on.