Business

Coronavirus: companies too must show solidarity

Faced with a disaster, “no one should be left by the wayside”. This expression, often used by business leaders when they made the decision to close a business, perfectly applies to the state of health emergency that we are going through. It starts with the patients of course, the caregivers too, but also the employees and entrepreneurs who, if they do not suffer from pathologies or are less exposed to the disease, are in a situation of economic risk.

To protect them, the State has drawn partial unemployment and guarantee mechanisms to make credits almost automatic. With its usual recourse to the community, France has put the package, and the Prime Minister was right to point out, on March 22 on TF1, that the country has implemented what was done best in Europe, “whatever 'it costs”. And indeed, it will cost the taxpayers one day, because it is out of the question to leave the bill to our grandchildren in the form of abysmal debt on the pretext that they are today escaping the scourge of the virus.

Besides the community response, what can companies that are not in survival mode do to express their solidarity? Initiatives are multiplying everywhere, from the LVMH “coup” on masks bought in the hussar in China and the production of hydroalcoholic gel, to the thousands of rooms and gas vouchers made available by Accor and Total for the nursing staff.

The thorny question of dividends

More institutionally, the boards of directors are all working on the thorny issue of dividends. Their distribution could be reviewed as a mark of elementary prudence in a tense cash management period, and a gesture by shareholders. But they have also virtually lost a third of their assets … Elior the first, then Airbus, have decided for the benefit of the company this debate which will divide the advice in the coming weeks. And the Minister of Economy recommended on Franceinfo that “all companies, especially the largest [show] the greatest moderation on the payment of dividends”.

Finally, the question of “say on pay” – resolutions on executive compensation – should come back to the fore, even if the general meetings will be held this year almost behind closed doors. Is it not the moment, while the crisis is there, that the PACTE law will impose to publish from this year a “fairness ratio” between the compensation of the boss and the median salary of his house, d have a “French” reflection on the subject? Can we both have the most advanced collective protection mechanisms, and individual compensation based on international market standards?

The CEO of Saint Gobain took the lead, personally: Pierre-André de Chalendar thus cut his salary by 16% – placing it at the level of those placed on partial unemployment – and paid the remainder to the AP Foundation – HPSolidarity: it's not just the state. A gesture to ponder.

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