Six months on since Jersey entered ‘lockdown’ conditions, it’s clear that the global seismic events of this year have upended businesses and livelihoods, its shockwaves reshaping commercial landscapes.
As many islanders in Jersey return to the office, it’s tempting to assume that means a return to business as usual.
But our virtual conversations with clients reveal far wider ambitions. This chimes with public appetite for change – 31% of the UK public want to see big changes in the way the economy is run coming out of the crisis, a further 28% want to see moderate changes and only 6% no changes (Guardian).
Island businesses will need to draw more than ever on their digital strengths and expertise in sustainability if they are to thrive in a post-pandemic environment – that’s based on the findings of recent research by HSBC, Navigator.
The survey of more than 2,600 companies around the world shows that post-pandemic business plans hold promise for economic renewal. Firms are making fundamental changes to how they operate, in three dimensions.
First, collaboration. Businesses are pulling through by pulling together. Recognising their responsibility to society, one in three firms surveyed reacted to the pandemic quickly by adapting their products and services to support relief efforts. Despite physical distance, four in five businesses now feel closer to their customers, employees and suppliers. And nine in ten provided direct support to businesses they work with.
This shift in collaboration will not be short-lived. An overwhelming majority of businesses (57%) are seeking to become more collaborative, rather than self-sufficient going forward.
The economy is also being reshaped by the second aspect of business change: innovation. This is fundamental to raising long-term productivity and growth – 50% of firms said adopting technology will make business more productive. The most resilient businesses are investing in technology to innovate, rather than just to automate and cut costs.
The pandemic offered a glimpse of the future – from Zoom meetings to streaming entertainment and e-commerce deliveries. The Navigator survey shows technology is now seen as vital for business continuity, with most firms moving online. This mirrors changing consumer habits and signals a recovery that will be digital.
The third dimension of business change is near unanimous commitment among business leaders (91%) to rebuild on firmer environmental foundations. This will bolster hopes for accelerating the low-carbon transition as well as creating long-term commercial opportunity – 85% of businesses prioritise environmental sustainability.
So amid the greatest economic challenge in a generation, businesses are pivoting to become more collaborative, more innovative and more sustainable.
Jersey businesses aren’t waiting to be told how to ‘build back better,’ they’re starting now and technology and sustainability are at the forefront of their thinking. As history shows that businesses are more likely to fail coming out of a downturn than when they’re in one, it’s vital that island business leaders push ahead with efforts to make their enterprises more agile and more resilient.
Jersey has been very successful in setting out its stall as an expert hub in digital innovation and sustainability and, as this report shows, now more than ever island businesses are going to need to move faster and smarter if they are to thrive in this new environment.