SEATTLE, Washington — The economic danger of COVID-19 on lives and livelihoods, particularly those concerning small businesses or SMEs, is dire. This can be seen in local communities and around the globe. On March 31, 2020, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) launched a campaign to raise awareness that the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. It discussed how the virus threatens the survival of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). The title of its campaign is “Save Our SMEs (SOS).” It called for urgent action on both the international and national levels. The ICC intends to save SMEs through government action.
SMEs During the Pandemic
The ICC’s website includes both a government and a corporate call to action with a policy tab full of research and proposals that effectively address the economic challenges SMEs and their employees will face. The numbers are grim. Around “40-60% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster.” Already, order cancellations have slowed garment factories in Bangladesh, causing layoffs and furloughs of 55% of garment workers. During just the first six months of 2020, 400 million full-time jobs were cut. Governments, private sector leaders and international institutions need to act quickly to save our SMEs. By doing so, they will save the lives and livelihoods of countless people.
The SOS campaign offers both resources and support such as funding and free services to aid SMEs. It has hosted webinars and created podcasts concerning the issue. The campaign spreads the word and advocates for the protection and sustainment of SMEs to be a priority during COVID-19. The ICC’s emphasis on SMEs has to do with their particular vulnerability to closing forever as well as the vulnerability of small business owners and their workers. Due to their micro, small or medium size, these enterprises need outside resources to surmount the huge challenges COVID-19 presents.
Government Call to Action
“The imperative to Save Our SMEs cannot be overstated: this agenda is of paramount importance to safeguard the current and future functioning of the global economy and the livelihoods of billions of workers throughout the world.”
The ICC recommends governments provide stimulus and safeguard measures to small businesses for their continued operation. SMEs can account for nearly 80% of employment in many nations. To ensure their public health and well-being, they need to extend social protections such as paid sick leave, childcare for essential workers and access to healthcare. In addition, they need greater funding for community support services.
Governments also cooperate with international organizations and businesses to achieve the best results possible. Open trade with other countries will help stimulate the economy as will open conversations between governments, employers, workers and communities at large.
Corporate Call to Action
The ICC advocates for cooperation between governments, international organizations and international and national corporations alike to protect SMEs. Corporate leadership is needed to maintain the health and safety of the supply chain workforce. Providing adequate cleaning and social distancing guidelines will further smooth the business operations of the supply chain. Upholding contracts with suppliers and distributors will prevent SMEs from being unable to pay their workers. The ICC encourages corporations to work with governments and advocate for stimulus efforts to “flow into the real economy.”
COVID-19 knows no national borders. Due to the great integration of global supply chains and markets, it is in everyone’s best interest to support businesses with a global strategy. “As an institutional representative of more than 45 million companies” operating in more than 100 countries, the ICC sees the economic consequences COVID-19 has on the lives and livelihoods across the globe. Supporting local small businesses can have a far-reaching, even global, impact. From communities to multinational corporations, everyone must work together. That is how ICC intends to save SMEs.
– Mia McKnight