Responsible business has been steadily climbing up the agenda, driven by growing investor and regulatory interest in responsibility and sustainability, and an organisational focus on values and purpose. A shift in business practices is needed to ensure work is a force for good, and the CIPD calls for businesses to balance all stakeholders' needs and ensure employees benefit from the value created in our workplaces.  

This report tells the story of responsible business and trustworthy leadership through the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It gathers the perspectives of more than 60 senior leaders, including HR directors, across organisations that include FTSE 100 companies, large local authorities, and household names. Through their candid reflections, we offer a unique insight into leading an organisation during the first wave of this crisis and key learnings to consider to become a responsible business.

Download the report and executive summary:

Key learnings

The report offers practical applications for leaders to consider as we move into the next phase of the pandemic:  

  • Think about the role of the organisation in the community and broader ecosystem.  

  • Consider reshaping your organisation’s purpose, both to survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19 economy and to play a bigger and more responsible role within its communities/ecosystem.  

  • Leaders must communicate honestly, clearly and transparently with all stakeholders about the difficult decisions to be made.  

  • Bring new talent into your boardroom.  

  • Leaders must be aware of what they don’t know and be transparent about it. 

  • Organisations and leaders should be active in addressing inequalities, including low pay for those in front-line roles and inequalities linked to ethnicity.  

  • Build a bridge between the past and the future.  

  • Maintaining the humane and personal leadership that has emerged during COVID-19 means encouraging vulnerability at all levels.  


Explore the insights and key learnings further in the full report.

The CIPD's work in this area is ongoing. We hope to follow up with these businesses and others in the months ahead as they navigate the further challenges of the pandemic.


Professor Veronica Hope Hailey

Veronica Hope Hailey is Emeritus Professor at the University of Bath. She was named among the “UK’s Top 10 Most Influential HR Thinkers” from 2012 to 2017. Hope Hailey was formerly University Vice President and Dean of the School of Management at the University of Bath, Associate Dean and Professor of HRM at Cass Business School, Professor of HRM at Cranfield School of Management and also a Fellow at the University of Cambridge. She was elected a Fellow of the Academy for Social Sciences in 2019.


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