Chambers of commerce, like businesses and governments, are experiencing new challenges and opportunities in the age of COVID-19. In recognition of the vital role that chambers of commerce play in their business communities, Dubai Chamber, with the support of ICC WCF, has published Chambers New Norm: Adapting Business Needs Report to understand how COVID-19 is impacting chamber services.
The findings, which are based on interviews conducted with chamber leaders from every continent, found that many chambers of commerce lacked formal crisis management plans to deal with a widespread public health crisis, like COVID-19. Despite lacking initial plans, the report found that chambers of commerce reacted to the pandemic quickly by developing risk strategies aimed at covering both internal operations and services to members. In response, chambers of commerce focused existing services and pioneering innovative projects designed to manage the economic and social challenges faced by local businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Hamad Buamim, WCF Chair and President & CEO of Dubai Chamber said: “COVID-19 has presented both opportunities and challenges to chambers of commerce around the world. Despite the uncertainty faced by local communities and businesses, this report demonstrates that chambers of commerce responded with resilience, innovation and creativity to manage the worst consequences of the pandemic. Dubai Chamber and ICC WCF recognise the importance of working with chambers to bridge knowledge gaps and increase preparedness for future global crises.”
ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “It has been truly impressive to see chambers of commerce take rapid and decisive action to assist their local business communities in overcoming the economic and social challenges associated with COVID-19. This report demonstrates that SMEs, in particular, have benefitted enormously from the essential resources and services provided by chambers of commerce throughout the pandemic. Chamber leaders must continue to expand upon these initiatives to ensure that our SMEs can survive and thrive in the future.”
The report also identifies several successful initiatives put in place by chambers of commerce to overcome challenges stemming from COVID-19, such as public lockdowns and declining sources of revenue. From conducting network surveys to creating digital marketplaces, chambers of commerce expanded upon their core services to provide their communities with support as they adjust to the “new normal”.
Based upon these findings, the report provides several recommendations aimed at “moving chambers of commerce forward” and adapting their services in the age of COVID-19. In the short-term, the report recommends that chambers assist businesses, especially SMEs, with moving their operations digitally, as well as promoting international standards for work hygiene and safety. Looking ahead to the long-term response, the report advocates for establishing closer collaboration among chambers, expanding sustainable business models and accelerating digital transformations within businesses.
The report is aligned with ICC WCF’s 2021 Strategy Road Map, which identifies several priorities to strengthen chambers services in the 21st century. In particular, the report is linked to Chamber Connect, an initiative outlined in the Road Map, to improve global chambers collaboration and networking by creating and improving digital and physical platforms. Other priorities outlined in the Road Map include strengthening global networking, bridging knowledge sharing gaps, and aligning chambers’ brands.
In preparation for the 12th World Chambers Congress, which will take place from 23-25 November 2021 in Dubai, the report touches upon many of the challenges and opportunities facing chambers of commerce. Under the theme “Generation Next: Chambers 4.0”, the 12th World Chambers Congress will address how technology is reshaping the future of global trade and how chambers are utilising digital solutions to adapt their services and operations to address challenges related to COVID-19.
Learn more about ICC’s campaign to Save Our SMEs.