How is the relationship changing between business, society and government?

27 April 2020

We asked our partners around the world...




Emiliano Sacristán, Madrid.

  • In Spain the ability and resilience of Spanish managers is demonstrated once again. Companies such as Inditex, Santander and Seat, have produced or financed the manufacture of necessary healthcare products to help in the crisis as so many other small companies have done.
  • Even better is the response of society, impeccable in complying with the measures proposed by the experts, the motivation to help and collaborate with those who need it, and the prompt adaptation to work online from one day to another.
  • There is still a non-alignment between business and government, as they are each influenced by their ideology in decision-making as opposed to overt business interests.
  • The high dependence on tourism makes the IMF’s outlook very pessimistic for Spain – with a drop in GDP of 8% and an expected unemployment rate of 21%, but the determination, work capacity, and leadership of our executives will clearly be pivotal to a faster recovery.



Guglielmo Sallustio, Milan.

  • Italy has been one of the worst affected countries and the repercussions will be severe. At the beginning there was a clear split between business, the populous and government – especially after the first weeks of uncertainty with the unclear communication by some consultants who suggested contradictory solutions. However, the awareness of the close connection between the economy and politics is now spreading across all social groups, including historically anti-industrial ones.
  • There is an increasing awareness that friction is no longer perceived as between companies and workers but between “systems” ie between the effective (productive and efficient) and ineffective (unproductive and inefficient) irrespective of whether it is about skills, structures, business models or investment.
  • A general understanding of responsibility is finally emerging: from the health sector to that of economic development; from infrastructure to digital divide; from schooling, professional and university training to that of welfare. For too many years government has not committed itself sufficiently with the necessary political will to deal with and resolve our backwardness, which has heavily penalised the development of companies in Italy.



Nijolė Kelpšaitė, Vilnius.

  • The Lithuanian government has endorsed an unprecedented economic stimulus package, totalling 5 billion Euros, to help mitigate the negative impact of the Coronavirus crisis on workers and businesses. The plan earmarks 1 billion Euros for boosting the economy and 500 million Euros for shoring up the healthcare system, for preserving jobs and for maintaining business liquidity.
  • The Government has allocated 23 million Euros to fully compensate for interest to be paid by small and medium-sized businesses in cases where the repayment of loans or financial lease was postponed from 16 March 2020 because of the pandemic.
  • Today, we see the same solidarity as we saw in 1989, when 2 million people formed a human chain from Vilnius to Tallinn. Students, entrepreneurs, developers are going out of their way to give our healthcare professionals the support they need. These are hard times, but the lessons we learn today – that great things can be achieved together – are going to inspire the next generation.
  • Some examples of how Lithuanians are coming together in the fight against Covid-19:
    • Three telco companies joined forces to launch a volunteer coordination hub in just 24 hours to help citizens reach out to the elderly and other vulnerable members of society;
    • Vilnius municipality announced “night-care” centres, so medical workers working night shifts have a place to leave their children;
    • Children continue to study remotely while schools are closed with the ability to borrow laptops;
    • Restaurant chains are delivering free food to doctors and volunteers;
    • Scouts are manning an “outdoor waiting room” next to the country’s main Infectious Diseases Hospital; and
    • Local citizens are creating interactive maps to show which parts of the city have the highest concentrations of at-risk citizens.



Shane Collins, Dublin.

  • Ireland’s societal response to date is encouraging – business, government and civil society have responded in a unified manner with a strong sense of social solidarity.
  • The Government demonstrated social solidarity when implementing the lockdown in Ireland, by introducing strong financial supports for businesses. These businesses would not survive the lockdown if these supports were not introduced, even with these supports unfortunately some businesses will not survive.
  • Businesses want to be socially responsible, but at the same time, they want to get back to doing business as soon as is possible, the longer they are closed, the higher the chance of not surviving, and they do not want to continue to be reliant on the Government whose support is not infinite. However, when businesses do reopen, they will again be reliant on the Government to introduce strong stimulus measures to restart the economy.
  • Lockdown measures might help people find a better work/life balance. Currently many businesses are undergoing a remote working experiment, depending on how successful this is, it may result in employees permanently working from home or for a number of days a week. According to a recent study in Ireland, the current remote working experiment has resulted in a number of behavioural changes including; many people are waking up later with no commute to work, eating dinner earlier, going to bed earlier, and a large reduction in city populations. This would have a massive impact on office rentals, as well as city residential lettings and purchases. The benefit to businesses would result in less costs including rent, insurance, etc., and possibly a more productive and happier workforce, the experiment continues…


The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every corner of the world and disrupted daily life; every day there are more changes determining how we live and work.

Friisberg & Partners International is a long established, geographically distributed equity partnership with highly skilled partners, consultants and research teams in 40 of the world’s major cities offering executive search and leadership consultancy, in context, around the globe. We are highly effective in combining local knowledge with genuinely global capability.

We draw on the benefits of our diversity, bringing together people from many cultures with varied market experiences and different perspectives for strategic and organisational challenges. Never before have we faced a crisis of this magnitude, but our commitment to each other and to our clients remains constant.

If you have a question about business leadership you would like to put to Friisberg’s Partners, then please email Lorri Lowe, Partner, Friisberg UK:


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