Leadership from the Top: How Senior Canadian Business Leaders Are Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis


The first part of the webinar series Business Continuity Through the Lens of Sustainability focuses on the Canadian business response to COVID-19 and Leadership from the Top. The discussion shared the priorities and inspirations of top business leaders that included Marcelo Lu, President of BASF Canada; Neelam Sandhu, Vice President of Business Operations & Strategic Accounts at Blackberry, and Stephanie Vaccari, Managing Partner Canada at Baker & McKenzie LLP.

The panelists were asked a set of questions pertaining to the way in which their organization is living up to the Ten Principles and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Discussing the impact of the crisis on their respective organizations, the representatives from BASF Canada and Baker & McKenzie LLP highlighted that the pandemic is bringing people together through different initiatives such as well-being seminars, exercise sessions over the internet, etc, and that partnerships are the key to moving forward.

The speakers were asked about how they were keeping their commitments to the Ten Principles and what are were their key priorities  Stepahnie Vacarri from Baker & McKenzie LLP, shared that sponsorship programs such as The Lift Sponsorship for women, and partnerships where youth can access real time information to justice and social protections are helping them stay committed to their goals. Neelam Sandhu, from Blackberry, stated that they are offering their software for free to all organizations around the world, and they are doing a lot of financial modeling to anticipate different scenarios with the goal of not making any employee reductions. Marcelo Lu, from BASF Canada, highlighted that they are partnering with Cleveland Clinic to allow all their employees to have access to health without having to exit their homes. Additionally, BASF Canada converted one of their facilities to produce hand sanitizers which they are donating to essential workers.

The panelists also emphasized on the importance of digital transformation tools to strengthen the ability to deliver the SDGs. Specifically, Stephanie Vaccari suggested that business leaders should think about working from home and use technology as a key to get through this entire process and use it even when we get back to the office for meetings instead of travelling. The discussion concluded with some of the biggest lessons that have been acquired by these companies as a result of the pandemic. Neelam Sandhu expressed that businesses need to put a focus on the community, whether that’s helping their employees and helping them maintain their physical and mental health, whether it is helping the wider community. Lastly, Marcelo Lu stressed on the importance of developing trust within the team, within the company, within the government, and within the way companies interact with customers.

Stephanie Vaccari - Managing Partner Canada, Baker & Mackenzie LLP
  • Stephanie Vaccari, Managing Partner Canada, Baker & McKenzie LLP
  • Neelam Sandhu, Vice President of Business Operations & Strategic Accounts – Office of the CEO, Blackberry
  • Marcelo Lu, President, BASF Canada

GCNC Webinar Series: Business Continuity Through the Lens of Sustainability

A multi-part webinar series that will focus on the Canadian response to COVID-19 and share the insights, priorities and inspirations of top business leaders, government representatives and sustainability experts.

What does leadership from the top look like in a time of crisis and how does this vary across multinationals and SMEs? How can governments and civil society combine efforts with the private sector to catalyze the recovery process and limit further disruptions? How do we reimagine the future of work in a post-COVID era and how do we ensure that business revitalization in the digital age is both eco-centric and human-centric?

The webinar series aims to offer thoughtful reflection and expertise while hoping to reanimate collaboration and drive actionable goals.