How can business build purposeful collaborations to support the resilience and recovery of those most vulnerable to COVID-19?

Join us for an online discussion to explore how can business build purposeful collaborations to support the resilience and recovery of those most vulnerable to COVID-19

LIVE Panel

Thursday 14th May 3pm BST / 10am EDT [ADD TO CALENDAR]


COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, devastating impacts on the lives, livelihoods and learning of millions on people, particularly the most vulnerable: those in informal, insecure and low-income employment; those living in developing and emerging economies; women; those with underlying medical conditions and disabilities. In the immediate response, we have seen unprecedented collaborations between business, governments and civil society to mitigate the impacts on those most vulnerable to the pandemic.

As we come to terms with this new reality, what can we learn from the immediate response to the pandemic, and how can we use this knowledge to help us to recover and rebuild better? This is an effort that must be led by government, but business, along with civil society, has a critical role to play. The actions that we take now, will have long-lasting effects on people’s wellbeing and resilience in the long-term. Business Fights Poverty recently held a webinar on this topic, to launch a longer collaborative project which will generate insights, deepen relationships and find practical solutions to this urgent challenge.

This online written discussion will open up the conversation to a wider audience. Join here to share your own experience, learn from others, and gain practical guidance to help you shape your organization’s efforts to recover and rebuild better.


  • Alice Allan, Senior Adviser, Business Fights Poverty
  • Richard Gilbert, Senior Adviser, Business Fights Poverty
  • Christina Tewes-Gradl, Senior Adviser, Business Fights Poverty
  • David Norman, Senior Adviser, Business Fights Poverty
  • Jane Nelson, Director, Corporate Responsibility Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Hannah Clayton, Manager, Communities and Human Rights, International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)
  • Sunila Lobo, Chair Of The Board Of Trustees, SADAKA
  • Faith Manthi, President, United Nations Youth Association of Kenya
  • Norine Kennedy, Vice President, Environment, Energy and Strategic International Engagement, United States Council for International Business (USCIB)
  • Ruth Thomas, Director Global Agribusiness Alliance, WBCSD

Moderator : Katie Hyson, Director, Thought Leadership, Business Fights Poverty


  1. What examples of best practice are there of businesses responding to support the most vulnerable to COVID-19 in their value chains, communities and beyond that will help create resilience going forward?

  2. What actions are businesses taking to create more resilient economic and social support systems for those who have been the most vulnerable during COVID-19?

  3. What are the practical risks and opportunities for business to step up and make a greater contribution in supporting those most vulnerable during and after COVID-19?


This is a text-based discussion. There will be no video or audio. Please post your comments below. After the live session, this discussion will remain open, so please do continue to share your insights. To receive a free summary of this discussion afterwards, register here

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Hi everyone, we will be starting the live portion of this discussion in ten mins.

Really looking forward the conversation about how business can help rebuild better, including through collaboration with others.

Good morning - Norine Kennedy, United States Council for International Business (USCIB) here, glad to be joining this online discussion of purposeful collaboration with respect to response and recovery with focus on the most vulnerable. USCIB is unique in the global business eco-system in that we are entirely focused on international and multilateral policy, connecting the dots across policy areas for our members, leading U.S. companies to inform and contribute. We are the American affiliate of BusinessatOECD, the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers. We are all in on advancing the 2030 Agenda as synergistic with the need for all hands on deck COVID19 response via international cooperation and partnership. Looking forward!!

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Thank you to everyone for joining us today. We will get the live portion of today’s discussion. May I start by asking everyone to introduce yourselves - simply login and hit reply to start typing.

Hi everyone, I’m David Norman, Challenge Director at Business Fights Poverty

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Hi I am Sunila Lobo. The Trustee of a homeless charity called Sadaka.

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Hi, I’m Hannah Clayton and I lead ICMM’s work on communities and social performance. Really pleased to be participating in this discussion. ICMM is a CEO led industry association solely focused on improving social, environmental and health and safety performance to ensure that mining is safe, fair and sustainable.

ICMM is supporting members as they respond to COVID-19 and we’re regularly convening our 27 company members and 38 national and commodity association members to share information, guidance and accelerate learning.

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Hi I’m Alice Allan, I recently completed the Business Fights Poverty toolkit on how business can address domestic violence during C-19. Looking forward to this discussion and the many inter–related issues we will be looking at as we re imagine/re build.

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Hi everyone, I’m Zahid Torres-Rahman, CEO of Business Fights Poverty.

Hi everyone - Jane Nelson from Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Responsibility Initiative and great to be part of this discussion today as we start to focus on initial lessons learned and how business can partner with governments and civil society to build a more resilient and inclusive future.


Hi – It’s Richard Gilbert here. I am a Challenge Director at Business Fights Poverty and have been leading our work on COVID-19 and MSMEs

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Hello everyone. Faith Manthi here. The president for the United Nations Youth Association Kenya

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Our first question today:

**Q1 **
What examples of best practice are there of businesses responding to support the most vulnerable to COVID-19 in their value chains, communities and beyond that will help create resilience going forward?

Hi! I am Christina Tewes-Gradl, founder and managing director of Endeva. We enable inclusive systems innovation through discovery, design and co-creation. I co-authored the BFP toolkit on “rapid innovation through partnerships”.

Gender Based Violence (GBV), particularly domestic violence and sexual harassment, are already a challenge for business - resulting in significant impacts on worker wellbeing, losses to productivity and reputation. C-19 has hugely increased the risk of women experiencing #gbv (confinement, economic stress, reduced capacity of health and social services to respond). UNFPA estimate that all countries will experience a 20% increase in gender based violence - an equivalent of 15million people every three months of lockdown.

Some businesses are rising to the challenge - looking both internally at how to protect staff and externally to shape wider societal responses (more on the latter later).

Two good examples of internal company responses include Vodafone and Rio Tinto - who have both revised their guidance for staff, taking into account the unique context of online working whereby managers and staff are not able to communicate in ways they might have done before. E.g. if staff are feeling unsafe and restricted in their ability to communicate, ‘safe words’ have been established to trigger responses and support. In some cases staff have been able to be classified as ‘essential workers’ and able to work in offices or workplaces rather than at home where they feel unsafe. See this fantastic repository of info and ideas

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A1 - In terms of communities, ICMM members have been sharing resources and information on how they are providing immediate assistance to local communities and how they are approaching supporting longer term recovery and resilience. Particularly in more remote host communities where mining companies can be critical partners for development.
Community responses are being tailored to the specific and most urgent needs of host communities. E.g. donations to COVID-19 focused funds for practical support including the provision of clean drinking water, donations of company facilities for use as field hospitals and donations of personal protective equipment. There is a strong emphasis on community-focussed communications to raise awareness of what measures to take, whether through online education programmes or other means in those areas without internet. Some members are providing care packages to those most in need and supporting local businesses and suppliers.

One important area of action by companies to build resilience of MSMEs in supply chains has been around the digitisation of payments and remote provision of support services. The implementation of mobile money and app-based digital payment systems is playing a key role in the short-term to reduce the need for cash transactions (thus reducing the risk of infection), enabling MSMEs to continue to accept and make payments and ensuring finance gets to where it is most needed quickly and efficiently. The move towards supply chain digitisation in the longer-term will help improve worker safety as cash is removed from the system, drive financial inclusion and support women empowerment.

In the UK, Tesco Bags of Life has provided funding for the most vulnerable including the homeless. And, restaurants like Nando’s are feeding refugees and others caught in this crisis for free, especially essential as Muslims are fasting this month of Ramadan.

Many MSMEs are hard hit by the crisis around the globe. Companies can strengthen their MSME partners with a long-term view, putting in place solutions that can last beyond the crisis, for example to enable access to credit. In an upcoming BFP report with Richard Gilbert, we show how companies can join forces with public players and impact investors to create a better ecosystem for SMEs.

One current example: In Colombia, AB Inbev created the site Customers can find the nearest corner shop and order delivery online, keeping shops in business and enabling customers to stay home.