COVID-19: A catalyst for change?

The arrival of COVID-19 in spring 2020 was a traumatic and unpredictable event that shook organisations to the core, not just locally or regionally, but globally.

Our ways of working, certain products or systems, and even whole business sectors, were profoundly affected or even made obsolete. Now it looks likely we will be heading for a global recession, during which time many industries will need to be reformed or restructured, in the post-pandemic environment.

One thing we know, is that we will need to define a ‘new normal’. There will be no going back to the way things were. Moreover, public opinion is showing that perhaps we do not even want to go back entirely to the way things were before.

A survey carried out in spring 2020 suggested that only 9% of the UK public wanted life to return to normal once the COVID-19 outbreak was over. People have noticed many positive changes during the lockdown: including less pollution, more wildlife, and closer communities.

In May 2020, a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the RSPB sought the views of adults in the UK on the role of nature during the Coronavirus crisis. 78% of those questioned agreed that the pandemic had highlighted the need for more accessible nature-rich green space. 83% believed the Government should increase the number of nature-rich areas in the UK.

Findings from Climate Assembly UK, a group of members of the public chosen to represent the UK population to help shape future climate policy, showed that nearly 80% felt that government measures to help the economic recovery should be designed to reach net zero too. In addition, 93% said that the government and employers should encourage lifestyle changes to cut emissions.

PECT, the charity that launched Investors in the Environment (iiE) back in 2010, is a member of the Climate Coalition. This coalition – which brings together over 140 environmental organisations from across the UK – has called for a healthy, green and fair recovery, believing that the actions taken now to rebuild our economy will have an immense and lasting impact for generations to come.

What change can you make?

The question is, what can your business do, post-pandemic, to protect the planet and build long-term organisational resilience? As we emerge into the new normal and start trying to pave our way forward, it is clear some key resilience objectives are allied with environmental initiatives too.

Now is the time to be strategic in order to build long-term organisational stability: what is the future direction for your business and how can this future also be green?

Businesses that survive, and even thrive, coming out of the pandemic will be those that are agile and respond quickly to challenges. This includes using cloud computing, flexible working, and home working arrangements – with some businesses already seeing a drop in commuter emissions between 25%-73% for agile workers.

In the new normal we will not need to travel for meetings so much anymore, because this can all be done online, and perhaps productivity will even increase without the morning commute to navigate. This has remarkable co-benefits for businesses, teams, and the environment – with costs cut for running buildings, improved local air quality, lowered greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced stress for staff spending less time commuting in a car per week.

Human activity is causing our planet to warm at an alarming rate, and there is no time to waste to avoid the most devasting impacts of climate change. When else do we get the opportunity to revolutionise our businesses and working practices so completely and utterly than in response to a pandemic? The health of ourselves and our planet are inextricably linked.

The simple solution is that sustainability can help to future-proof businesses. So, how can your organisation innovate and embrace the green revolution in the wake of COVID-19?