As the Covid-19 pandemic has upended life across the globe, the ensuing business responses and economic uncertainty are commanding headlines.
But why are some big businesses facing startlingly rapid implosion, while others have the bandwidth to pivot to producing medical supplies? Differences in governmental benefits notwithstanding, why have stances on reduced executive compensation, dividends, and care for workers varied so dramatically?
开始回答这个复杂问题的一种方法是查看谁拥有这些公司，以及伴随不同形式所有权的激励，压力和倾向。自2017年以来The Ownership Project在牛津大学的赛义德商学院（Saïd商学院）一直在做这件事，研究了世界上最大的企业的一个特别研究的角落，年收入超过10亿美元：家族拥有的企业。
我们了解到，即使家庭校长在社区中以及他们的劳动力中众所周知，这些家庭也对隐私有偏爱。Private companies owned fully by families without any outside shareholders are generally under no obligation to reveal anything about their finances or governance. The general public is not necessarily aware that these companies are part of everyday consumer life, from home appliance maker Bosch, to agricultural behemoth Cargill, to confectionary and pet food producer Mars.
一个很好的例子：3月30日，在英国锁定后一周，来自15个以上国家的大型多代家族企业的校长在网上收集到牛津萨伊德的所有权项目Family Advisory Council, a group of senior family ownersconvened to guide our research. We asked these principals to share business priorities during the pandemic, amidst reduced cashflow and pressures on worker, customer, and supply chain safety.
At that stage, the scope of the pandemic was still unknown. Many governments had yet to issue clear guidance to businesses and the public regarding safety best practices and business relief measures. And yet, we heard clear calls to action, drawing on the unique possibilities afforded by family ownership:
First, family owners’ ability to unilaterally decide to reduce profits (and dividends): Richard Edelman, CEO of public relations firm Edelman, addressed the elephant in the room, noting that his company is advising its family business clients to accept profit reductions instead of letting workers go: 'Family business should try to keep its work force intact as long as possible. We are long term players with deep connections to our communities.'
André Hoffmann, Vice Chairman of Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche involved with Covid-19 testing kit manufacture, explained that as a company with a 125-year history, 'the biggest reassurance is the knowledge there is long-term ownership. This is what makes us different…It is a competitive advantage.' Heineken Supervisory Board member Michel de Carvalho echoed this point: 'there’s a family that’s been around since 1864…we have been through other crises in our history.'
Before Covid-19, generational asset transfer, taxes, wealth inequality, and racism were already at the centre of public debates. As inequalities now unevenly distribute virus death tolls and hardships wrought by quarantines and market turmoil, conversations about inequality and fairness will be accelerated.
Business-owning families have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from other types of owners, and therein lies the third call to action: as business-owning families are enmeshed within their communities, there’s an accompanying responsibility to help out.
Among most S&P 500 companies, the CEO is usually the most public-facing individual, but hasa median tenure of merely five years.大型公司的家庭所有者对国家和地方福祉负有责任，因为它们具有独特的持久知名度，提供工作，影响其本地环境，并拥有公司税务，以支持对基础设施和公共物品的支出，以使其成为可能。
我们的理事会会议期间,斯坦埃里克·哈根,但书der of Norway’s largest conglomerate, discussed working with the Norwegian government to 'give support to smaller companies so they don’t have to close down,' reflecting an awareness of the fact that a healthy SME sector contributes to the macro- and micro-economic wellbeing of the country where he lives and works.
The top concern of Meher Pudumjee, chairperson of Indian energy company Thermax, were the operations and maintenance workers at Thermax project sites who were stranded after the Indian government’s sudden national quarantine. 'How do we get them back home to their families safely or keep them safe at sites with help from our customers?' Pudumjee asked. 'In India there are many migrant wage labourers without any salary or food.'
There can be low public tolerance for inconsistency across family owners’ full portfolio. Luxury family-owned conglomerate LVMH, for example, was鼓掌当主席伯纳德•阿尔诺批准hand sanitiser production via text message, but wascriticised, including by workers through社交媒体，用于另一家LVMH公司的裁员。
Building a coherent strategy across their business, investment, and philanthropic platforms to fight the pandemic and support the hardest hit should be front of mind for global family owners. From the early days of the pandemic, we heard first-hand a chorus of family businesses calling on their peers to step up and assist their workers, suppliers, customers, and communities. Family owners, join them.
Dr Bridget Kustin and Dr Mary Johnstone-Louis co-direct theOxford Programme on Responsible Ownership, and research large family businesses throughThe Ownership Project在牛津·塞德（OxfordSaïd）。