Stay Ahead: Insights from APCO

American Solidarity

APCO is tracking Americans' attitudes and behaviors related to COVID-19 in a series of weekly polls. The latest installment, from polling conducted on April 10, looks at Americans' attitudes towards business responses to COVID-19:
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A Futurist Meets the C-Suite: Making this Moment Matter

Denielle Sachs, global head of The Tembo Group, an APCO Worldwide company, shares the key insights from our recent webinar with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) on the path forward for business and philanthropic leaders to secure social and environmental progress:

"When faced with complexity, we oversimplify and have false confidence in our assumptions, which allows for blind spots in our decision-making.

Scenarios are a tool that allow us to expand our field of view, holding multiple uncertainties at once, and give us a framework for developing plans and strategies that keep in mind all the plausible possibilities. Scenarios correct against cognitive biases and allow us to stress test strategy while planning for multiple plausible outcomes helps to avoid the risk of planning for one projected future that could be quite off."

Global Puzzle
Missed the webinar? You can access the complete recording, as well as other resources and insights from APCO on our Coronavirus Hub
The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Brexit

Sir Graham Watson, former leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group in the European Parliament, and Yves Bertoncini, senior counselor at APCO Worldwide, discuss the prospect of the United Kingdom exiting the European Union by December 2020 amid the pandemic and the impact on the business community: 
Empty Trafalgar Square

"The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made agreement on the future relationship by December 2020 quite unrealistic.​ The UK’s economic health, already forecast to be heavily impacted by Brexit, has been knocked deeply by health and welfare crises for which the country was largely unprepared.

Most medium-sized and large businesses were already braced for Brexit but expected a negotiated settlement. Few had predicted fallout of this global scale caused by a pandemic. The combined impact of the two spells not only a deep economic recession, but a prolonged period of uncertainty about the UK’s intentions.​"

Americans Impacted by COVID-19 Look for Corporate Leadership and Empathy

American workers and retail investors are experiencing some of the greatest repurcussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jeff Zelkowitz, executive director and global financial practice leader based in APCO Worldwide's New York office, shares insights for business leaders and communicators on navigating the weeks and months ahead:

"It is an understatement to say corporate leaders are in a difficult spot. They have to be agile in balancing and communicating different priorities, while demonstrating business leadership and empathy.

Americans expect businesses to do what it takes to maintain their strength and ability to serve customers. But in the near term they also expect companies to safeguard employees and help their communities.

The goodwill they build now could help later on: three quarters of Americans (74%) said the way a business treats its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic will influence their purchasing decisions."

Solo Steel Worker in Factory

RETAIL SALES

The full economic impact of COVID-19 is becoming clearer with the release of retail sales data. U.S. retail sales numbers released Wednesday showed that sales in March fell by 8.7% overall, the biggest month-over-month decline since recording began in 1992. While sales of food, medicines and other essential goods rose as consumers prepared for lockdowns or stay-at-home orders, they were offset by a steep decline in sales in discretionary items such as clothing, electronics and vehicles. March data released around the world is showing a similarly grim sign: French retail sales fell by 24% last month, while new data from a British retail industry group reported a 27% drop in sales in the first two weeks of a national lockdown. In Japan, industry analysts are predicting a 40% drop in March year-on-year.

Poor sales data is likely to continue into April as control measures weigh on economic activity, while gains in certain sectors may slow as consumers return to more normal shopping behaviors instead of stockpiling. Brick-and-mortar retailers may also struggle even as the economy begins to reopen. Several Chinese retailers witnessed empty stores even after the government pushed for normal operations, as consumers remain worried about secondary outbreaks. While Chinese sales data is likely to bounce back slightly from March's 20% decline, it may not suggest a roaring return that many are hoping for. Business agility is therefore critical in mitigating the impact of COVID-19, whether by ramping up e-commerce, streamlining services or identifying innovative offerings to keep consumers engaged. At the same time, government policy will be essential in supporting businesses big and small through the toughest points of the pandemic. Businesses should continue to actively monitor stimulus and relief measures as they are released to help weather this storm.

A TEST OF TIES

Global solidarity amid the COVID-19 pandemic has proven difficult, as lack of coordination and responses to the outbreak threaten cooperation between governments, institutions and societies. President Donald Trump’s announcement this week to temporarily halt the United States' funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) caps off weeks of escalating statements against the WHO and tit-for-tat accusations thrown back and forth between the United States and China. Meanwhile, reports of discrimination against African residents in China have rocked China-Africa relations. Comments made by Chinese officials on the ineffective control measures adopted by Western countries have also sparked public criticisms and diplomatic consternation.

Solidarity is also challenging market supplies. Panic-buying and ensuing shortages of various supplies continue to stoke fears of an overdependence on trading partners. Some countries have halted exports of key foodstuffs or medical supplies, such as rice from Vietnam and fish from Cambodia, while South Korea, Indonesia and the EU have tightened export regulations on face masks. Meanwhile, new Chinese restrictions to ensure the quality of medical exports have created new bottlenecks to deliver essential supplies worldwide. Growing aversions to supply chain disruptions and growing incentives to prioritize local businesses at home are likely to encourage further protective measures to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on national economies, which will place further stress on longstanding global trade flows and the businesses who rely on them for their normal operations.

Some Positive News

  • Philanthropy at home: A 99-year old British army veteran has raised more than GBP 13 million (and counting) for the National Health Service by walking 100 laps in his 25-meter garden, The Guardian
  • Green Recovery: 180 European ministers, researchers and CEOs are partnering to mobilize green investment opportunities once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, Bloomberg
  • The business of positive news: Surging demand for good stories amid the pandemic has led to a wave of new media offerings, meme accounts and newsletters dedicated to positivity, The New York Times

More Tips from Around the Water Cooler

Quotables


“It is important to recognize that even with the best will in the world from every single country acting individually or even bilaterally, you still need the global coordination that is essential to get on top of those problems to prevent a second wave, to prevent unnecessary deaths, [and] to get the economy back on the best footing possible,"

        - Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister

“In emergencies we must be particularly vigilant and resist the swift temptations of simple technical solutions for extremely complex social problems,” ​

        -
The Computer Scientists’ Forum for Peace and Responsibility​
The APCO team is working with clients globally to manage this crisis, and we stand ready to support your needs. For more resources from APCO, including our latest research, information on how we can help or to contact us, visit apcoworldwide.com/coronavirus.