Coronavirus: The stakeholder no one saw coming

by Lisa Steingold. The startling truth that most of us prefer not to consider is that change can happen at any moment. How do you plan for something like the coronavirus? Transport, hospitality, luxury goods and retailers will be hardest hit as consumers worldwide put off holiday plans and postpone spending.

by Lisa Steingold. The startling truth that most of us prefer not to consider is that change can happen at any moment.

Malaria, depending on sources, kills between 500 000 and a million people every year with 80-90% of these deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa: “In 2017, there were 219 million malaria cases that led to 435,000 deaths. Of these 61% (266,000) were children under five years of age. This translates into a daily toll of nearly 730 children under age five. Every two minutes, a child under five dies of malaria. Most of these deaths occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa,” reported Unicef

If Coronavirus has killed just over 3000 people (as of 3 March 2020) but has just under a 50% recovery rate, why is the state of panic so high and the effect on economies and industries so prolific? Whether or not the coronavirus turns into a global pandemic, the outbreak is already ‘infecting’ economies and financial markets around the world.

Coronavirus fears triggered the biggest one-day fall on the US stock market since the global financial crisis in 2008. In addition here are just a few effects of the current Covid-19 scare:

  • On 5 February 2020, Hyundai Motor Company was forced to suspend production in South Korea due to shortage in supply of parts.
  • The Australian dollar dropped to its lowest value since the Great Recession as a combined result of the fires, floods and virus impact.
  • Land Rover UK estimates it could run out of parts by next week .
  • iPhone supply is also set to experience shortages.
  • Aston Martin predicted falling sales and warned of disruption to its supply chain.
  • Budweiser beer owner ABInBev reported a $170m hit to profits.

“The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade body for the global airline industry, warned last week that falling passenger demand would cost the airline industry $29.3bn (£23.7bn) in lost revenues this year, with global air travel expected to fall for the first time in more than a decade…” reported The Guardian.

Transport, hospitality, luxury goods and retailers will be hardest hit as consumers worldwide put off holiday plans and postpone spending. In addition there is concern for supply chains and Chinese factories remain closed. This is not to mention the numerous sporting and business events around the globe that have been cancelled or will potentially be postponed including the 2020 Summer Olympics, which is scheduled to take place in Tokyo starting at the end of July. Other events postponed or cancelled include:

  • Facebook which cancelled its annual developer conference in California where the company usually unveils new products to thousands of software engineers and entrepreneurs.
  • Formula 1 cancelled it’s Chinese Grand Prix whilst MotoGP cancelled two of it’s races.
  • Property firms pulled out of the industry’s annual Mipim conference, due to take place in Cannes next month.
  • Cosmetics firm L’Oréal banned travel for its 86,000 staff.

And so it continues. But why the wide scale panic? And more importantly how do organisations and it’s leadership plan for stakeholders they didn’t see coming. Whilst Malaria kills more people than is predicted for Covid-19, what instilled panic is the rate at which the virus spread across the globe. From the first cases reported, 31 December 2019 (WHO) to over 88 000 infected as at today, the virus was a surprise start to the year for individuals, organisations and markets. Additionally, while malaria kills a sizable number of people each year, it’s not contagious and doesn’t affect developed economies,  but that’s another piece all together.

Developed economy or not, why do organisations need to pay attention to coronavirus and why should organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa take note? The startling truth that most of us prefer not to consider, is that change can happen at any moment. How, as leadership and organisations, can we navigate these often turbulent times? The answer lies in how we relate to all stakeholders. Coronavirus is the stakeholder no-one saw coming. In turbulent times asking new questions may just yield new results?

  • Who are our stakeholders?
  • Who are the potential upcoming stakeholders we haven’t seen coming?
  • What can we say and do and positively impact our people, our customers, our communities, our environment and all those we engage with?

This is not about having answers but more about understanding how we, as leadership teams, engage with and embrace change. It’s about developing the ability to connect during volatility and change because it’s part of the norm; the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the 2011 Japan trifecta (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident) and more intense natural disasters. This is not about adopting enterprise risk management, although it is an important consideration. This is about adopting agility as culture and continuous exploration of new scenarios.

Indeed there are a number of organisations which are actively working to combat the effect of the virus. This includes a number of tech start up’s including:

  • Founded in 2013, UK company Century Tech is helping children in China hit the books even while their schools are closed.
  • Hospitals in China are also being helped by European robots from the likes of UVD Robots, a spin-out of Danish startup Blue Ocean Robotics.
  • Israeli startup Sonoviais betting that its nanoparticle-infused fabric can protect local populations if used in medical masks, protective clothing and hospital materials like bedding and gowns.
  • Meanwhile, Amsterdam-based Castor has provided free access to its data capture platform to support non-profit Covid-19 research projects.


Lisa Steingold is an author and head of marketing with global leadership consultancy, Metaco. The above piece is republished with permission in full from her blog. For more questions and insights, feel free to download Metaco’s State of Leadership Report 2020 on


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