CEO summit on Global Economy
The Chamber of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, represented by its Director General Rabih Sabra, participated in the CEO summit “Resetting the Global Economy” which was held virtually on the 13th of September 2021.
Co-organized Arab-British Chamber of Commerce and the Cranfield University, this summit brought together prominent CEOs, business leaders and policy makers from across the regions to share effective and sustainable business practices following the Covid pandemic.
The summit addressed four key topics namely, “Arab-British trade and investment, the Future of Education, Sustainability for industries in transformation, and, Entrepreneurship and digital disruption”.
Speakers included Khaled Hanafy SG of the Union of Arab Chambers, Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani President and Founder of the Arab International Women’s Forum, Kamal Hassan Assistant SG of the League of Arab States and RT Hon Baroness Elizabeth Symons of Vernham Chairman of the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, who moderated the third session attended by Mr. Sabra.
“Sustainability for industries in transformation, organizational resilience and personal well-being”
This session gathered in addition to Rabih Sabra, Walid A. Abukhaled CEO Officer of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries and Kevin Morrell professor of transformational strategy at the Cranfield School of Management.
Mr. Sabra addressed issues related to the Lebanese economic and sanitary crisis, highlighting the Beirut Chamber’s interventions to support the Lebanese private sector and its initiatives to promote the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Professor Morrell noticed that although the global economy is influenced by the major nations’ economies, the latter became powerless when facing a global, threat but the pandemic reflected a positive side through inducing resilience.
Reacting to a question about the level of support from rich countries to the poorest, Walid A. Abukhaled noted that the pandemic was a sudden shock that disturbed all countries. He added that despite the WHO interventions, governments focused on supporting their own societies and he concluded on the G20 summit 2020 in the KSA, which tackled aids to countries that faced difficulties due to the spread of the pandemic.
Beirut Chamber support initiatives to the Lebanese business community facing the pandemic and its initiatives to promote the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
How far has the global economy succeeded in building sustainable resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Indeed, the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously disrupted our societies, hardly affected our economies and business ecosystems. Lebanon has lately witnessed an escalating critical situation, whereby the economic and sanitary crisis, added to the devastating blast of Beirut Port, have significantly afflicted the entire society and its various economic actors.
Hence, the drastic depreciation of the Lebanese pound and the growing inflation impeded the purchasing power of the Lebanese households and induced a severe recession.
Hence and in the absence of comprehensive public support schemes, MSMEs have been compelled to reduce their activity or completely shut down, with negative consequences that had deterring effects on employment.
In response to this situation, the Beirut Chamber intervened through various initiatives in order to face the growing challenges by building resilience and providing support to the Lebanese business community.
Hence, the Beirut Chamber implemented preventive measures and awareness campaigns to face the pandemic, and secured facemasks free of charge to public authorities and private institutions. Also and considering the prevailing financial difficulties, the Chamber granted member companies delays for the payment of their fees.
Moreover, the Chamber created the "Beirut Donation" platform to help MSMEs alleviate financial strains, through in-kind contributions and small grants to devastated businesses.
In this same context, the Chamber contracted a consulting firm specialized in loss valuation to assist damaged MSMEs in obtaining due compensation from their insurance companies for the incurred damages caused by the Beirut blast.
I would like to conclude here by saying that despite the outstanding difficulties and recurrent hurdles, the Lebanese people and business community have shown, over decades, a remarkable resilience, and have always resisted and overcome obstacles, exactly like the Phoenix that Rise from the Ashes.
Leadership skills and business best practices required to address employee and personal well-being that became high priorities during the pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way corporations and workers operate. Whether working from home or office, fear, anxiety and other strong emotions may turn to be overwhelming, and workplace stress may lead to burnout. From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders have noticed the importance of employees’ wellbeing on productivity. However, a Harvard Business Review survey showed that while executives had been focusing on their employees’ mental health they dedicated little care to restore their own energy levels and wellbeing.
As to the Beirut Chamber’s response to the pandemic and lockdown measures, we adopted flexible onsite and remote work schedules. In this context, I would like to highlight that the Beirut Chamber has achieved over the last decade, a progressive digital transformation and has integrated agile management techniques, accompanied by skills development programs. This allowed us to face the constraining situation caused by the pandemic and our personnel was able to work remotely through our online and IT platforms. Yet, for some particular functions that require onsite physical presence, such as the certification department, we adopted flexible arrangements through staff shifts and minimal presence at the nearest work location in order to secure continuous services for our exporters, namely the issuance of certificates of origin.
As a best practice to address the wellbeing of employees, the Beirut Chamber in partnership with IFC of the World Bank Group, organized workshops to raise awareness about the mental health and wellbeing of employees during COVID-19 and subsequent to the Beirut Port Blast.
Animated by senior psychologists, the awareness sessions, included the following topics:
Finally, and since mental wellbeing is also closely associated with the financial wellbeing, the Beirut Chamber offered financial aid to employees in order to compensate the devaluation of their income in Lebanese pounds.
To what extent the transformations experienced are going to be sustainable in the future? How to support the implementation of the UN SDGs for 2030?
As you know, the world has committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through 17 Goals or SDGs, which were adopted by United Nations in 2015.
Following the outspread of the pandemic, it appeared that its direct effects on the health sector (SDG3), were closely interconnected with the remaining Sustainable Development Goals namely education (SDG4), economy (SDG8), consumption & production (SDG12) and climate (SDG13).
Indeed, health as a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing is a prerequisite for sustainable development and is closely interlinked with the personal, social, economic, political, and environmental factors that are central to the achievement of the UN SDGs.
The Beirut Chamber, being the representative of the private sector in the Lebanese national committee for SDGs, has implemented various activities and initiatives that fall under the 17 pillars, namely Decent Work & Economic Growth, Quality Education, and Gender Equality.
At the level of decent work and social protection, the Beirut Chamber has closely collaborated with local and international counterparts, like the International Labor Organization and the European Training Foundation, in elaborating studies about new health insurance and pension plans, in addition to other initiatives on skills mismatch and job creation.
On the level of education, the Lebanese training center at the Beirut chamber has been providing since its establishment in 1996, a wide range of training programs that aim to enhance the upskilling of the Lebanese workforce.
Moreover, the Beirut Chamber sponsors a Master in Entrepreneurship program in partnership with the Paris Chamber and HEC business school, to develop the entrepreneurial skills of Lebanese graduates and facilitate their integration in the labor market.
Additionally, the chamber is a member of CONECTE the Collaborative Network for Career-building, Training, and E-learning, which is an ERASMUS - PLUS initiative, focusing on providing support to Lebanese universities to promote e-skills and ensure a greater integration of digital learning in businesses.
Finally, on the level of Economic Development, the chamber is a major partner with local and international counterparts namely the EU, to implement development projects that aim at upskilling young men and women including NEETS. The targeted sectors include the port logistics, IT, finance, agro-food and textile, with an ultimate goal to enhance economic growth and create new job opportunities for the Lebanese youth.