The Role of the Private Sector in Solving Global Crises

Three private-sector leaders share their insights on how the business community can respond to and solve crisis situations around the world.


Air Date: May 18, 2021

Moderator: Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Julie Sweet, Chief Executive Officer, Accenture, Arvind Krishna, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, IBM, Brad Smith, President, Microsoft

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt around the world during the past year, and it quickly became clear that some countries were better equipped to handle a crisis situation than others. For those that were not, aid in the form of public-private partnerships has often been essential to staying afloat and surviving through difficult times.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce itself launched a global task force on the pandemic response to mobilize the global business community and apply strong private sector leadership to solve worldwide issues. At the Chamber’s Global Forum on Economic Recovery, leaders from Accenture, IBM, and Microsoft discussed the private sector’s role in responding to countries in crisis.

Solving Global Crises Requires Connection, Commitment, and Collective Action from U.S. Businesses

At the heart of the Chamber’s global task force are what Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, calls the three C’s: connection, commitment, and collective action.

“It's the connection of the U.S. health and economic security to [resolve] the global pandemic crisis,” said Sweet. “It is about commitment for U.S. companies to protect the health and safety of its own employees everywhere in the world, but also our long-standing tradition of a commitment to be a force for good in the countries where we operate around the world.”

“Finally, it's about the power of collective action,” Sweet continued. “It is taking the basic principles that we each operate under — focus, scale, diversity of experience and thought — and bringing together the private sector to work on these big problems and to work with governments. Remembering connection, commitment, and collective action really helps you understand what our priorities are and how we'll move forward.”

Businesses Must Communicate With Consumers and Government Leaders to Prioritize and Deliver Resources During a Crisis

As COVID-19 cases began surging in India, Arvind Krishna, chairman and CEO of IBM helped mobilize the Chamber’s global task force to deliver badly-needed resources to a country in crisis.

“It's our responsibility as members of the community to go help as much as we can,” said Krishna. “It's also important to reinforce the critical nature of the business relationship on both sides because the impact on all of us as citizens and consumers will be immense.”

When it came to coordinating relief efforts, Krishna said the task force corporations received feedback from their employees and leaders in India and connected with Indian state and government leaders to find out which essential items were most needed.

“The three items that they all said they need and wanted our collective action on [are] ... the oxygen supply chain. The second is around a hospital and access to medical care, and the third is a sharing of best practices. So this wasn't top-down or theoretical — this is based on actual needs that our employees and their families all wanted.”

Data, Global Supply Chains, and Local Volunteers Will Help the World Get Through COVID-19

Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, believes there are three key assets that will empower the private sector to help countries make it through the pandemic: real-time data, global supply chains, and employees on the ground around the world.

“We have real-time data on a really unparalleled basis, and that enables us both to see, and then to predict that [COVID-19 spread in certain countries] is going to lead to other hotspots,” said Smith. “The second thing we have is a global supply chain … [that allows the] ability to secure oxygen-related equipment, buy it where it is being produced, and ship it by air with Chamber and task force members to the countries where it's needed.”

“The third thing we have is people on the ground pretty much everywhere,” Smith continued. “The need is global and our capability is global. And that's why I think it's this combination of connection and commitment — a commitment that ultimately is really about saving lives around the world.”



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