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19 Mar 2020

Peter Webster, Eiris Foundation

Commentary: Investors can encourage responsible corporate governance & policies during COVID-19 outbreak

“How can responsible investor engagement help with Coronavirus”, 18 March 2020

[S]enior management time is rightly being focussed now…the immediate economic impacts of [the COVID-19 outbreak]. Coronavirus Action Plans need to be widened to encompass public health and economic recovery. Ways to support community health and health-care services [include]: time off sick without loss of pay for regular workers, sick pay for temporary or insecure workers,…staggered working hours to reduce contact and support the care of children and others.

[Supporting] economic resilience [through]:[paying] suppliers…on time [or] early,…reduced hours [instead of] redundancies,…[b]anks [should act]…on government schemes to protect SMEs…[and should consider] postponing mortgage payments or repossessions and leasing payments on capital assets. [Some examples]: Supermarkets providing free deliveries to the [elderly]…for smaller purchases,…blocking anything that might look like exploiting the crisis,…sharing knowledge…across geographies and cultures through you own professional teams and…stakeholders.

Responsible investors can help encourage and validate responsible governance and leadership from the top: looking longer term; fostering resilience; discouraging sub-optimal behaviour by individual companies. [W]hile nobody can “solve” this crisis on their own, responsible investors have a part to play.

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