For many of us, COVID-19 is the single biggest crisis we’ve ever lived through.
The virus continues to wreak havoc across the globe. And while no one can be sure on the best way to fight the outbreak, the human and economic cost has been unprecedented and widespread.
Until the dust settles, we won’t know the full impact of the virus. But this isn’t the first crisis the world has gone through – it’s not even the first pandemic – and we have overcome adversity before.
Dun & Bradstreet has existed for 178 years. And in that time, the world has experienced Spanish Flu, major recessions, the Great Depression, world wars, and much more.
And while every crisis is unique, it’s important we put COVID-19 in perspective from a business perspective and use data from the past to help inform our decisions to ensure future survival and growth.
A huge economic impact
While all loss of life is tragic, the human cost of COVID-19 compared to other outbreaks in history is relatively low.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), HIV has killed 32 million people, and the 1918 Spanish Flu killed tens of millions of people. While the human impact of COVID-19 is devastating, thankfully, we’re unlikely to see mortality rates reach this scale.
On the other hand, in terms of the economic costs, COVID-19 may have the biggest impact we’ve seen in recent times. To get some perspective, let’s look at the last crisis that put the economy under substantial pressure – the 2008 financial crash.
The 2008 crash caused a huge amount of volatility. Markets collapsed, share prices fell, and people across the world felt the economic pinch. Many businesses were forced to shut up shop, and unemployment numbers went through the roof.
It was a hugely disruptive time. And yet many are saying it is nothing to what we can expect in the wake of the current pandemic.
The impact of COVID-19 is likely to go far deeper, impacting not just the western world, but each and every country. It has irrevocably changed the way we work and accelerated the digital transformation that was already underway across many industries.
The ‘ripple effect’ has penetrated supply networks, shutting down public and private enterprises regardless of industry, geography or size and resulting in huge ramifications across the world.
The FTSE100 dropped 29% between January and April. Central banks are trying to fight the slump by providing monetary stimulus, and governments are reaching deficits of record levels.
But the question is, will that be enough?
As bad as the financial crash was, the world economy is facing the biggest contraction in almost a century – and this will inevitably pose challenges for many businesses.
After the second world war, business surged, employment skyrocketed and enterprises adopted automation with a new vigour.
Similarly, since the 2008 crash, the economy has grown by 11% and we’ve seen the emergency of exciting new developments such as the birth of ‘Fintech’. Unemployment has fallen, the financial sector has grown, and the world is embracing digital transformation. In short, once the dust settles and new norms are accepted, society is rebuilt.
There’s no doubt the world will recover from COVID-19. And indeed, in many ways we may be stronger for it. But we need that recovery to happen quickly. And for businesses, that means maintaining momentum as much as possible.
Thankfully, we’ve never had so many tools at our disposal to do just that.
We’re on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution. The technology available today dwarfs that which we had just ten years ago – enabling processes and systems to self-regulate without the needed for physical maintenance.
Communications have reached a point where many employees can be just as productive working remotely and we can connect virtually with colleagues, clients and partners across the globe on screen.
From conference calling to file sharing, the cloud has enabled seamless collaboration no matter where employees are located. This means many businesses are not only able to survive the crisis, but can continue to grow and build develop for the future.
We’re also living through a data revolution. The amount of data – and sheer power of the analytics and management platforms available – are unprecedented. Businesses are empowered to assess risks, helping them make better informed decisions.
The last decade has seen businesses become nimbler, more flexible, and more collaborative than ever before. And now is the real test of just how far they have come.
Keeping momentum is not easy. And businesses will have to employ every tool in their arsenal to survive. But the world will rebuild – and businesses who can weather the storm now will find they can recover all the faster in the future.
Watch our webinar to learn more about how to keep momentum in times of crises, to hear insights from our partners at the World Economic Forum, International Chamber of Commerce, and the World Wide Web Foundation.