In Crisis Zones, Investment in Purpose and Impact Drives Organizational Resilience and Growth
By Nabil Hayel Saeed Anam
06 Jan 2023 - Communities around the globe are facing some of the most tumultuous, disruptive, and tragic events in generations.
During this period of global uncertainty, when capitalism is under pressure and corporations’ focus on shareholder returns is under intense scrutiny—and organizations and their customers and employees grapple with instability and complexity on a daily basis—companies have a moral imperative to respond.
This response must take the form of meaningful investment in people, products, and places that will both tackle immediate challenges and generate long-term positive outcomes for the communities companies serve.
This approach is not new for many organizations operating in fragile environments, where populations often rely on private sector organizations to step up in times of crisis—especially in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.
Since 2014, when civil war broke out in Yemen, the conflict has inflicted a devastating impact on the nation’s economic and social fabric. It has often been left to the private sector to respond to the crisis and sustain livelihoods.
By operating in one of the most complex environments in the world, Yemeni businesses have learned to adapt swiftly and respond effectively to changing circumstances—and emerge stronger. They have also learned to quickly identify ways that businesses can contribute to society in times of great upheaval.
Successful companies and business leaders often prioritize “three p’s”: people, process, and product. But in crisis environments, a fourth “p”—purpose—must overlay this approach if organizations are to operate and support the communities that rely on their essential goods and services. These organizations must invest in a range of innovative initiatives and form partnerships with like-minded organizations to deliver on this vision.
Purpose-Led Product Innovation
In crisis zones, companies must take a proactive approach to research and development (R&D) to forecast how product innovation can match the shifting needs of the local populations most in need of support.
HSA Group, in partnership with the World Food Programme, adapted the ingredient mix of our key food and beverage brands to increase the nutritional value of our biscuit, flour, and ghee products. We also introduced innovative packaging to boost our products’ shelf life, to sustain produce in an environment where conflict often disrupts the supply of daily essentials.
Investing in the Workforce of Tomorrow
When a crisis hits, companies must account for extensive disruption in the lives of their customers and employees alike. An organization must ensure that it supports its workforce personally and professionally through times of uncertainty.
Taking a holistic approach to reward and develop talent can help an organization both support its people through times of tumult and foster skill sets that will serve it well after it emerges from a period of conflict.
By applying a long-term approach to investing in our people, HSA Group has retained and developed our workforce through short- and long-term measures, providing free private health insurance to employees who can’t access basic health care due to the extensive disruption to Yemen’s public health system, and partnering with SAP to launch a program for recent Yemeni graduates to obtain internationally recognized technology certification that will expand our organizational capabilities.
Processes to Shore Up Resilience
In times of crisis, organizations must invest preemptively in internal infrastructure and processes to ensure operational resilience. Yemen’s ongoing conflict has continually compromised its information technology (IT) and telecoms infrastructure, often disrupting the core of our organization.
In response, HSA Group has worked with our international technology partners, such as Microsoft, SAP, and Cisco, to roll out new systems, enabling critical business units to make data-driven decisions at a time when our operations were under sustained strain. Through investment in technology and processes, we have maintained business continuity and ensured that our essential products reach even the most remote communities in Yemen.
Purpose-driven investment strategies—both external and internal—unlock the significant role businesses play in the lives and livelihoods of our customers and our people. In spite of the turmoil of the horrific humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and in line with our values as a family business, integrating purpose into our focus on people, process, and product in this most complex of landscapes has been key to enabling growth and integral to our success—and challenges any assumption that businesses operating in crisis zones are less inclined to pursue ethically driven sustainable strategies.
Investment in purpose does not only drive organizational growth; it also makes capitalism work for everyone. In the long term, we hope and believe that this approach will enable the future prosperity of economies and communities across Yemen and will ensure success for impact-focused organizations for generations to come.