It’s not just about digital transformation.

As we emerge from the debris of COVID-19, embracing new ways of life and work while reconciling with the trauma of the pandemic, for business leaders: the challenge has just begun.

COVID-19 created more than just a global health crisis. The aftermath of COVID-19’s discovery and subsequent handling, treatment, and vaccine distribution has created a global trust crisis.

The cornucopia of misinformation, mishandling, sickness, death, and disarray that swept throughout the world over the last two years has damaged not only the public’s opinions about health and healthcare policy but also their opinions about business leadership.

Thus, one of the long-term effects of COVID-19 has nothing to do with the physiological aftermath of the illness, and everything to do with the lingering distrust that citizens and consumers have towards companies and brands.

As a business leader, it is now imperative to pivot your team and your brand to achieve the level of trust that is now expected by your customers, partners, investors, and shareholders.

The risk of not rising to these standards could result in loss of reputation, clients, and revenue.

New Challenges and New Solutions

Jamie Metzl, a leading technology and healthcare futurist, geopolitical expert, and founder of One Shared World, has introduced an organization that will unite different countries towards working together to achieve our shared goals. This type of impact-first leadership is what employees, customers, and investors are growing to favor.

Understanding Global Business Distrust

The trust crisis in business is apparent, with CEO’s credibility at all-time lows in several countries. [1]

To understand the importance of becoming a trust-first organization, it is helpful to understand why trust has eroded in recent history.

In times when fear and uncertainty are heightened, as they are during a global pandemic, each business decision carries more weight and attracts more scrutiny. When people are experiencing suffering and loss, they are more sensitive to any lack of empathy from businesses. Thus, while seeking a profit at the expense of customer satisfaction may have historically been circumstantially permissible, it will no longer be a viable option for a business to succeed.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer describes this societal degradation of trust as the result of an “epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world,” and states that businesses must work to rebuild trust because “the high expectations of business to address and solve today’s challenges has never been more apparent. The heightened expectations of business bring CEOs new demands to focus on societal engagement with the same rigor, thoughtfulness, and energy used to deliver on profits.”[2]

In our post-covid world, profit seeking and share price maximization must take a backseat to ethics and impact.

Perhaps ironically (and to the benefit of business leaders bold enough to put impact first,) doing so might be the way to maximize profits in the long run. Leaders at the World Economic forum reinforced this point. The CEOs of Bank of America, IBM, and Salesforce emphasized that “it makes moral as well as financial sense for company policies to focus on more than just shareholders” [3]

Why and How Business Leaders Must Change

There are several compounding factors which have created this new environment in which business leaders are held to a higher ethical standard.

One reason why businesses need to change is because consumers are realizing that corporate greed is (in part) responsible for inequality and global catastrophes such as climate change. As a result, investors and consumers care much more about business ethics and impact than they used to. 

A second reason is that digital transformation has forced organizations to become more transparent. In our new digital age, information is omnipresent. Companies can no longer hide their actions, and consumers can see and judge many decisions that a CEO makes. Because of this the global pandemic has, in some ways, brought people closer together. The world has a closer view to the actions of companies, and people care more about the intentions of the leaders behind those companies.

At the World Economic Forum, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said that “One of the ten trends is moral capitalism and that’s where the investor money is going to flow […] If you’re thinking you can produce a profit, if you’re a shareholder, and not address your owners, and not address your employees, you’re going to have a problem.”[4]

Business leaders like Moynihan are trying to get ahead of this new business philosophy by becoming an early adopter and putting the community and stakeholders first.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff furthers this statement by purporting the necessity for a “more fair, equal and sustainable capitalism that actually works for everyone and where businesses, including tech companies, don’t just take from society but truly give back and have a positive impact.”[5]

Laurence Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock Corporation, stated that the firm sees “investor preferences changing, and much of it has to do with stakeholder capitalism and how a company, and their leadership and board, are navigating themselves […] The transition that we are going to be undergoing related to sustainability is a huge economic opportunity.” [6]

Following in the footsteps of Fink, Benioff, and Moynihan, it will be wise for business leaders to cultivate an ethics-first culture that is focused on driving impact for their communities.

The good news for business leaders is that this emphasis on impact – while it might hurt the bottom line in the short term – will ultimately yield a net positive financial impact. This is because “research[7] shows that companies that embrace a broader mission — and, importantly, integrate that purpose into their corporate culture — outperform their peers, grow faster, and deliver higher profits.”[8]

Ultimately, consumers value companies who have a purpose beyond just making money, and consumer opinion drives brand – which drives long term profit. [9]

Laying the Foundation for Global Trust and Global Impact

Jamie Metzl, the Founder and Chair of One Shared World, has created an organization that is striving to bring the world together to solve global problems.

Around the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Metzl recognized a broader theme at play. He realized that many global threats and catastrophes, including COVID-19, are a direct result of society’s failure to act as a global organization – which he describes as “our inability to act in ways that recognize humanity’s deep interdependence. What affects one of us, eventually affects all of us. From pandemics, to climate change, to system poverty, our fates are bound together.” [10]

The mission of One Shared World is to “harness the power of collective action to solve our greatest common challenges.” To do so, the organization mobilizes individuals, institutions, and governments to work together for global preservation.

Now 120 countries strong, One Shared World already has campaigns that help vulnerable populations and public health initiatives.

Metzl, who was formerly a National Security Official in the Clinton Administration where he led a government initiative on conflict prevention and response, is also an advisor to the World Health Organization.

By tackling global problems with a global task force, Metzl’s One Shared World might be equipped to face challenges that have long been insuperable.

Addressing Misinformation

In order to work together, it is also essential that people share a common view of reality, and of the truth. It is perfectly acceptable and healthy for people to hold different views and perspectives, but it is equally important that people agree on fundamental facts. Without this foundation, it will be challenging for people to make peace and empathize with one and other’s perspectives.

Jamie Metzl has been able to highlight some sources of disinformation around the origins of COVID-19, and the causes of this disinformation.

If we can seek the truth, check our sources, and aim for impact – then we and our businesses can achieve success in this new era.