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Business with Purpose: A Sign of the times

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Purpose-driven businesses are smart businesses. And doing business with purpose drives profit. Companies should be committed to purpose like never before and walk the talk. It’s about time for companies to show authentic consideration to social injustices. What about Mauritius?

Rarely in history have our societies reached such high levels of risk and uncertainty. 2020 is a historic year: the massive Covid-19 global health crisis, economic freefall, citizens’ movements fueled by social, ecological, and racial injustices.

Purpose is here to stay

There is an urgency for businesses to be a critical part of driving solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues. They should engage on issues including social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion within the context of 2020’s rapidly changing environment, and beyond, according to the 2020 Porter Novelli Executive Purpose Study. The study surveyed 150 C-suite executives in US companies with revenues of more than $500 million. 

This study confirms that delivering value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders is the new go-forward strategy. Furthermore, business leaders believe stakeholder-centered business ultimately drives profit. This is an ideal win-win situation for companies and for society.

There is more urgency than ever before for business to be a leading player in solving for critical global issues — and smart leaders recognize taking a stakeholder-first lens is not only good for society and communities, but also for business and bottom lines“, says David Bentley, CEO of Porter Novelli, 2020. 

Business leaders surveyed agree it is no longer acceptable for companies to myopically pursue profit; they must positively impact society, as well. They have to take stands on social justice issues. This is what happened amid Black Lives Matter (#BLM) protests across the United States.

Reebok Message

Brands are going beyond “thoughts and prayers” to rethink their product and brand strategies, communications, hiring policies, and industry-wide practices, as reported by Sustainable Brands, the premier global community of brand innovators.

netflix Message

Today, the purpose is omnipresent, and it is pervasive. 85% of business leaders say it is no longer acceptable for companies just to make money; companies must positively impact society as well. 88% of them know that now more than ever, companies must lead with purpose. 

Turn to stakeholder-centered business is more than just a “nice to have”. It is a sound business strategy. 89% of business leaders say companies that lead with purpose have a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. 85% of them believe that being a Purpose-driven company drives profit. 

Mauritius: Unemployment soaring and revenues plummeting

Mauritius is not the USA, many would say. Yes, for sure. But we’re living in the same world. There are no two Planet Earth. We face similar issues, although there may be local specificities. Citizens’ movements are marching on Mauritius since July. People are taking to the streets and demanding justice concerning multiple issues: political corruption, nepotism, social exclusion, racism/communalism, etc.

How could Mauritian businesses still thrive in such a deteriorating economic and social environment? “More than ever, it is crucial to establish a regular, structured, inclusive and constructive dialogue between all economic and social actors to find new solutions and opportunities,” says the president of Business Mauritius, Vidia Mooneegan, during the recent General Assembly of Business Mauritius.

BM CEO Kevin Ramkaloan, for his part, predicts that Mauritius’ economic situation will worsen further during the first quarter of 2021.

Politics are failing Mauritians to have a fairer society concerning these various topics. Eyes are also on the private sector (especially the big companies) on how they will stand on these issues.

Until now, the private sector remains tight-lipped on the government’s “alleged” corruption, incompetence, bad management of public finance, etc. 

Amongst the Covid-19 pandemic impacts,  Mauritius saw the number of inactive individuals increased from 205,100, end of March 2020 to 336,900, the end of May. (Monitoring The Socio-Economic Effects of Covid-19 On Mauritian Households-Statistics Mauritius/World Bank).

According to this document, out of a population of 1,2 million, only one third is in employment (405,400). 

The unemployment rate (based on a labor force comprising individuals ages 16-64 not in full-time education) is estimated at 10.2% compared to 7.2% for the first quarter of 2020. 

Moreover, over 1 in 3 Mauritian households posted a reduction in income compared with the 12 months before the lockdown. About 1 in 5 households (20%) report to have not been able to purchase basic food items. This was even larger at about 36% for the island of Rodrigues. 29% of Mauritian households who need medical treatment have not been able to access it since the lockdown. 

FinMin, Renganaden Padayachy, forecasted the unemployment rate, to reach 17%, which is more than 100,00 individuals) at the end of December 2020. Especially with the end of financial support to companies and employees by the government.

Therefore, the private sector is also in danger of being the new target of street protests. The MIC-Lux Island Resorts deal is already raising eyebrows, especially by the thousands of entrepreneurs, SMEs who are in survival mode. 

The agreement will see the MIC offer financial support of Rs 1 billion to the Hotel Group. The amount coincides with Lux Island Resorts’ total dividends to its shareholders, from 2015 to 2019, Rs 1 billion, Pg24 Annual Report 2019).

The 2020 Porter Novelli Executive Purpose Study says that executives understand that an investor- only mindset is no longer appropriate, stating that business must benefit all stakeholders, not just shareholders. And the events of the past six months have only put this mandate into clearer focus.

What role will the Mauritian private sector play in the “New Normal” world? Mauritian companies have a powerful opportunity to positively influence behavior change. It’s much more than booms filled with sugarcane leaves that are required.

Walking down memory lane, could we expect what happened in the mid-19th century as Sydney Selvon wrote in an article published in 2018. Entrepreneurs and professionals like Victor Dupont, Ernest d’Unienville, Eugène Leclézio, Evenor Demarais, Louis Bouton, Dr Salesse, Charles Pereybère, Dr Poupinel de Valencé, and many others made tours across the country. They demanded an equitable sharing of their rights as owners with their workers, executives, artisans and laborers.