A new social contract for wartime: Five things the Armed Forces expects from business

2 February, 04:51 PM
Elizaveta Sergienko/Press Center of the NBU

Elizaveta Sergienko/Press Center of the NBU

In war, the only goal is victory. This is the most basic thing. What can and should a business do to help bring victory in addition to the traditional social con-tract, which involves paying taxes, creating jobs, and investing?

The material was recorded during a speech as part of NV’s Investments in the Future summit

We are all focused here and now on bringing Ukraine's victory in this war closer, because there is no future without victory. That's why everyone is helping the country, and everyone is united around this. This is not just beautiful words or a pattern, it's our new reality. It is part of our new social contract — a wartime social contract, when more is expected from business than the traditional social contract investments, jobs, and contracts.

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I asked ten soldiers, former businesspeople who joined the ranks of the armed forces at the beginning of the war, what they now expect from business, and what its contribution to victory must be.

The answers turned out to be quite similar. And this, on the one hand, was very surprising, because people are different. But on the other hand, if there is a consensus, then it can really serve as a kind of framework for a new social contract.

So, let me lay it out.

In war, the only goal is victory. That is the heart of the matter. What can and should a business do to approach it, in addition to the traditional social contract, which involves paying taxes, creating jobs, and investing?

The answer is as follows: during the war, firstly help local communities, and secondly help the Armed Forces where the state is not able to.

After victory, these additional points of the social contract will be different. And the main thing that Ukrainian business should prepare for after-the-victory, according to those who were in business and are now in the Armed Forces, is to pass the tests necessary to join the EU, and be ready to rebuild Ukraine on the basis of European values. It is also very interesting: in the future reconstruction of the country, from their point of view, it is specifically the transparent and honest businesses that didn't run away from the war that should participate.

With regard to local communities, everything here is more or less clear — this primarily means humanitarian aid. When it comes to what is expected from business in terms of assistance to the Armed Forces, I heard something that I did not expect at all.

First: it is very important for the military to know and understand what is waiting for them at home and that they will have a place to return to. It is important for them to know that in the cities where they lived and live now, normal life will be preserved (life with basic services). And this is a separate big task for business.

Second: entrepreneurs and businessmen should understand that this storm will be here for a long time, and that the war will not end tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or in a month or two. Thus, it is necessary to form reserves and prepare resources in order to endure.

Third: direct material assistance to the Armed Forces where the state does not have the capacity (note that this point is only third, not first, and this really impressed me). And business must be flexible here, responding to what is really needed, as requests change every day. We help the Armed Forces according to this principle, have combined all our assistance into our Steel Front project, and work in close coordination with the Armed Forces/HUR [Ukrainian military intelligence] to provide the assistance that is most needed right now — from steel plates for body armor to protective bunkers and pillboxes.

Fourth: business must be ready to accept veterans returning from the war. This is very interesting, because every one of the 10 military personnel I interviewed said this: "It is important for us that business prepares to accept veterans, to do professional reprofiling, to train, especially in regards to dealing with war injuries." Once again: I spoke to my acquaintances, so this is not a representative sample. Most of them are either entrepreneurs or communicators. Nevertheless, there was complete consensus here.

And finally, fifth: business must accept that those who are at zero, those who are every day and at this moment risking everything, including their lives, probably won't say "thank you" every time they receive some kind of help. And this was a completely unexpected thought for me, because it seemed obvious to me. But for soldiers, it was a very important message, because from time to time this "thank you" is required.

One of these 10 soldiers was Masi Nayem. I asked him for a short text - some remarks that would summarize the main points about the new social contract.

"We will have to change because of the war, so why not do it for the better. Many have been forced to meet with the EU. And the EU knows that we in Ukraine are in many ways ahead of them. For example, in services. But we lacked honest rules which were fair and without corruption. We will win on the battlefield, I have no doubt about it, but we will still return to peaceful cities to work. If there are changes here, but not for the better, it will be very unfortunate. Have the courage to believe that Ukrainian business will manage to survive and even become better, as the Armed Forces are doing."

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