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Can collective grief power a locally ethical future?

At the heart of the pandemic's devastation has been the loss of control at pretty much every level of human existence. Harvard Business Review has coined the phrase “collective grief” in response to the shock impact that C19 has left in its wake. Traditional bulwarks of global stability, from the UN to capital markets have been rendered powerless, leaving the vast majority of businesses reeling with apprehension about the future.

As we tentatively shift from crisis response to recovery, in the UK at least, a common theme is that of reshaping the post-virus world for the better. One prominent City of London financier and philanthropist comments, "the commercial arena needs to re-boot and reconsider the way we do business…brands can no longer rely on pure profit and a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tab on the website to justify their existence but must evidence unambiguous ethical impact.” Whilst there is nothing new in this - there has never been a greater urgency to the sentiment.

As Tapis pulses its network in emerging markets, we’ve therefore been thinking about how the United Nations 5Ps** framework, of Environmental, Social and Governance, is guiding how companies are trying to do the right thing by their local stakeholders to manage coronavirus and come out the other side collectively stronger:


Coloured gemstone mining in South America. In the emerald zones of central Colombia, one international consortium has used the C19 restrictions to actively strengthen the social fabric of the host communities in which its concessions lie. Military enforced lockdown at the mine-sites and prolonged works stoppages created untenable social impact through loss of income. But, by harnessing the technical capabilities of the family units that underpin many of the labour cooperatives, the consortium has found a solution that complies with social distancing restrictions and still generates revenue. Members from the same multi-generational homes can work in individual tunnels and process raw product without infringing the law. The scheme allows for some measure of business continuity, and enables households to earn salaries whilst enhancing license to operate.


Wildlife protection in Central Africa. A global conservation agency with national parks across the DRC was confronted, at the outbreak of C19, by the strong links between the eating of wild animals and the spread of this ‘zoonotic’ virus. In consequence, its national leadership has taken measures to reduce the expansive bushmeat trade active within its territories. By developing substitute livelihoods through agribusiness and increased local recruitment into park ranger services, the agency has gone some way to weaning the neighbouring population off its cultural attachment to hunting. These actions serve not only to strengthen the fragile web of bio-diversity and conservation priorities but diminish the potential for further pandemics.


Textiles in East Africa. An Ethiopian fashion house in Addis Ababa has taken a radical step towards combining meaningful private-public partnership with social entrepreneurship as a result of C19. Forced to re-think its manufacturing and sales outlook at the advent of lockdown (without a market or a workforce) - it has taken in vulnerable women from the overspill of refugee camps and trafficking rescue centres. By housing them in its vacant factory and training them in the basics of sewing and fabric design - the company is now producing face masks and protective medical clothing for government use and domestic outlets.


Gold exploration and production in Francophone West Africa. Five years ago, a western major made determined efforts to build up the very limited local education structures surrounding its Senegalese mine site. This involved careful investment in poorly developed primary and secondary schools as well as scholarships to Dakar’s main universities. To prevent ‘brain-drain,’ the company also set up an in-house local geological training program for these alumni, a number of which continue to be drawn from neighbouring artisanal communities. Employment followed both at the mine-site and in the company’s exploration activity across national and neighbouring country permits. A recent decision to extend the mine life, and therefore increase production, was derived from survey data gleaned by this locally trained capability. With C19 forcing international staff to repatriate for quarantine, this kind of intelligent self-sufficiency points to an empowered and sustainable prosperity model.


Palm oil production in Central America. A DFI backed Honduran agribusiness with 100,000 ha of farmland had been destabilized by persistent and violent criminal targeting. Plantations, extraction plants and supply chain activity were attacked and infiltrated by trans-national cartels which, in turn, led to heavy handed public security response. Over a 4 year period, the death toll reached upwards of 120, including a significant number of the client’s field staff, guards and local residents. Alarmed at the scale of the problem, the farm’s leadership has taken a bold decision to disarm its entire private security operation and re-train them in human rights based conflict response. The move has been rewarded by negligible levels of security incident and greater community acceptance. Under current C19 restrictions, the company has undertaken a governance overhaul of its documentation to ensure compliance with best practice and stewardship codes. This rigorous process has been rewarded with initial acceptance of membership into the international body that sets standards around human rights and security delivery.

These five examples really demonstrate the importance of the 5 Ps, particularly now, at a time when economies, workforces and resources are stretched thin, and organisations need to work sensitively within local contexts.

Tapis is a global networks of consultants, diverse not only in ethnicity, gender and religion, but also in the skills and expertise they bring to understanding conflict, economics, sustainability and the power of partnerships. For more information on how you can source local intelligence, and improve how you do business with integrity visit

**The five P’s are commonly taken to represent:

  • People: Ethnicity, gender, religion and indigenous issues as well as community health and safety.

  • Planet: Use of water, land, impact on bio-diversity, and power as well as emissions and pollution.

  • Partnerships: Engagement with local communities, identifying and supporting basic needs.

  • Prosperity: Intelligently mapping the economic and financial merits of a project or business

  • Peace: Conflict avoidance with communities/vulnerable groups, corruption and ethics, as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law.



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