A burning question in the minds of CEOs and business leaders on the Island is, ‘Can a grey listed country, whose international reputation is in tatters, still attract quality business and foreign direct investment?’

My discussions with various stakeholders reveal two camps: 

The Ostriches – with the usual blasé attitude that everything will be fine, downplaying the impact and falling back on the same checkbox approach that landed the country in this situation; 

The Lions – who are more concerned and believe we need to address our systemic issues and use this as an opportunity to re-orient our economy for long term growth.

My opinion? If we are to thrive, it is time for our business leaders to become Lions: to step up and be proactive, not to be self-serving, but to address the broader challenges the country and wider community face.

Interestingly, this comes at a time people around the world have greater expectations from our business leaders.

A crisis of trust

The last year has seen a global decline in trust and, according to a report by Edelman Trust, government leaders are the least trusted public figures. Given that trust is linked to credibility and reputation, are we wise to entrust our reputation and goodwill solely in the hands of Government?

The changing role of CEOs 

The Edelman study also highlighted that 86 per cent expect CEOs to speak out on issues related to society. But speaking out is not enough. CEOs are expected to take action, especially in cases where Government has failed to fix the problem. Wise CEOs act first and speak later, thus creating greater credibility and trust.

Longer-term impact on business

These findings coincide with findings from other reports, such as the Deloitte global survey, that highlights an increasing number of millennials and GenZs choosing employers aligned with their personal values.

We are also seeing increasing demand from investors and consumers for more ethical and sustainable products. Given the loss of biodiversity, the state of the environment and climate change, these trends are likely to accelerate. I encourage CEOs to support this shift and proactively engage in more sustainable and ethical ways of doing business.

I share these with you to highlight that while the country may be grey listed, this is not a time to despair, give up or do nothing. That would make you complicit and part of the problem. Instead, this is an opportunity for business leaders to come together to find solutions and join a global movement of CEOs using the power and influence of business for good.

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