One year on - Stone King partners reflect on Covid-19 sector impact

As the first anniversary of the first national lockdown approaches, three Stone King partners have shared their thoughts on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the charity and business sectors.

Reflecting on the past year, Tim Rutherford, Head of Charity & Social Enterprise Sector Group commented; “We have seen charities continuing to develop more innovative and digital responses to the pandemic and lockdown, such as increasing online retail presence.  This has led to charities needing advice on thorny issues such as data protection, privacy and online sales terms and conditions.  It will be interesting to see if the wider effects of the pandemic on retail drive a greater trend towards charity shops being online as opposed to having a physical presence. 

Of the financial impact, Tim said; “We have also been involved in advising charities on how to potentially derestrict endowment funds which, in some cases, are centuries old to enable charities to maximise their potential resources.  It is clear that for many charities the financial challenges are being felt most keenly at the current time, as reserves have been drained, demand for services has increased but we are not yet able to return to normality.”

Julian Blake, partner in the Charity & Social Enterprise Team added; “In relation to the involvement of social enterprise and charities in public service provision, there has been a notable enhanced recognition of their value (as with the general appreciation of NHS workers). Commissioners describe this as the sector “stepping-up”, though it is more about increased collaborative endeavour and improved mutual understanding.”

Whilst Head of Business Sector Team, Peter Woodhouse contrasted the pandemic’s devastating impact on some businesses - not least the retail, travel and hospitality sectors - with those who have thrived such as virtual platforms, home delivery services and businesses with lower or flexible fixed costs, his thoughts also turned to employee relations.

“Some employers have treated the crisis as an opportunity to improve communications with staff and to build trust. Businesses that have demonstrated that owners are sharing the pain and have discussed how to share it, are businesses that will emerge from the crisis with employee engagement credit.”

Looking to the future, he added; “The pandemic has forced society to operate differently. Some of those differences are good for people, good for performance and good for the planet. The businesses that will emerge stronger are those that can retain those differences long after the primary crisis has passed.”

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