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#Covid-19 and EoC - Mexico: Economy of Communion “in Colour”

The "relational goods" cultivated over time with suppliers, customers and employees become a resource that makes the difference in times of crisis. The story of Norma and Christian, EoC entrepreneurs in Mexico City

An interview by Lourdes Hercules

The "colours" of companies in times of crisis are the "gray" that characterizes dark periods or the "red" of large losses of market share or current accounts where liquidity is scarce. This is why the “colour shades" characterising the story of the experiences lived in recent months by a couple of Mexican EoC entrepreneurs are surprising.

Norma Sánchez and Christian Medina are the owners of a company distributing Comex paints. They tell us about their experience during the current pandemic from Mexico City.Colori Messico 01 rid

Christian: We've lived through these months with a lot of worry and uncertainty. Of our 29 stores, 18 are in Mexico City, where the situation is the worse and the measures taken are more severe: we were forced to close our stores completely. Two months after having closed, the financial situation is critical. Fortunately, the other stores in other cities in the country, although with shorter hours, have been able to stay open and this has allowed us to continue to have an income.

Having taken into account the economic impact on the company of the closure of the stores, we asked the owners of the various premises for a reduction in rent; we were surprised to receive a "response of fraternity", which was one of the most beautiful experiences lived in April, May and June: with the exception of one, all the owners have strongly reduced the rent. In particular, two of them, in telling us their decision, asked us not to lay off our workers. It was not in our plans to lay them off, but we were surely struck by the chain of solidarity that was unfolding, in which everyone was concerned about the welfare of the other just as their own.

Among the measures we decided to take as a company there was the determination to pay all our employees' salaries for as long as we could, even though half of them were at home. For them and their families that they support, it is essential. When we did the calculations, we had enough resources for a little over a month, but we were looking for ways to manage for longer.

Colori Messico 02 ridAfter a few weeks, the Mexican government announced that all employers who had not laid off employees could apply for a loan on preferential terms, with a very low interest rate. We realized that we could apply – we had never even thought of laying off our employees -, we applied for and obtained the loan. This made us very happy because we felt that loan was a sort of recognition on behalf of the state for our decision not to make any workers unemployed.

When we talk about the Economy of Communion, more than an economic model, we are talking about a culture that is also reflected in the relationships within a company. How are you holding up?

Norma: In a recent webinar, Luigino Bruni pointed out that the good relations established with the various actors in the company are like an insurance policy that pays back little by little. That's how we felt. Respect for each and every person, and the relationships intertwining with each one of them have borne fruit at a time like this. We have a total of 55 employees: about 50% are at home while the other 50% work and make it possible for everyone to continue having a salary. None of them complain about having to go to work, knowing that the others are safe from the virus in their homes. On the contrary, we see growing solidarity when they tell us: "We'll work so that others can afford some food too."

Christian:What we see is the fruit of a relational culture built over time. Now we are in a moment of emergency, yes, but a relational culture Colori Messico 03 ridis not built during emergencies, it is cultivated day by day and in emergencies we see its fruits.

In the countries of Latin America the percentage of informal economy is very high (53%) and within the little formal economy, there is a constant presence of irresponsible commercial practices. What does it mean to be an Economy of Communion company in a Latin American country in times of pandemic?

Christian: We live in a context where the lack of trust, the deterioration of formality, the degradation of work and the failure to respect contracts prevail. We live in a culture that goes against solidarity, equity and justice. For us, being an EoC company also means a strong commitment to share, to communicate this new life we live within the company to others. No matter if what we do is something big or small, we have to share and tell, so that people see that it is possible to act differently, that there is an alternative that works and that gives even better results for everyone's quality of life.

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