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The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as a massive humanitarian and economic crisis. However – Sandro Salsano, who has been dubbed the “Warren Buffet of Central America”1 and whose Salsano Group holding company has stakes in over 100 companies in sectors ranging from technology to luxury goods – also believes that the crisis offers a unique moment in history to drive positive change in two areas: planet and people.

In particular, Sandro Salsano believes that we have a unique opportunity to drive the Environmental, Social & Governance agenda (ESG). “ESG has always been the core of any business we are involved in,” he says. “At the moment, for example, we are investing in vertical farming in the largest free trade zone in Central America,2 and we are also renewing our commitment towards clean oceans. On the ‘social’ side, we feel there is much more that needs to be done in areas such as gender parity.”

On the people front, Sandro Salsano sees new working-from-home models as positive both for leaders and for their teams. “I think this pandemic has been a good way to re-set personal priorities,” he says. “For me, I would usually be travelling two to three weeks a month, but it has now been a joy to see my kids growing up and spend more time with them.”

However, he also believes strongly that guardrails need to be put in place for employees, to ensure that virtual working does not create its own stresses or even make the work-life balance worse. “I think that it’s important to create a balance, because I’ve seen a tendency – both for myself and also for my teams – to work longer hours,” he explains. “It’s important that a Sunday doesn’t become like a Tuesday or a Wednesday!  You also need to create some personal space at home so that you don’t feel you’re working all the time.”

However, he does believe that driving positive change in these sorts of areas does require visionary and committed leadership from both CEOs and governments. “Unfortunately, we are seeing some poor leadership in some countries,” he says. “It’s like they’re ‘dancing the tango’ – taking one step forward and then three backwards! We’ve wasted 20 to 30 years fighting on issues like fossil fuels and gender parity, and we need a different approach to leadership that accepts that these aren’t issues you can play games with. We are at a moment in history where leaders need to step up.”

1 “El Warren Buffett de Centroamérica”, Forbes, 2 April 2019.
2 Toward Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation, Consultation Draft, WEF, January 2020.