The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to question and reevaluate the unsustainable growth model that has, until now, been driving the world. Inspired by recent conversations with sustainability leaders as part of a new podcast series, Erik Bruun Bindslev and Elizabeth Candelario, Partners at MERIKA Advisory, share their thoughts on how we can build a fairer, greener future.
The world has changed over the past few months. We’ve changed. Businesses and governments have had to respond to unprecedented disruption in the usual dynamic of living and working. Dominant beliefs about how the world operates have been exposed as deeply flawed, and we are questioning even more fervently the unsustainable growth model that has been driving humanity. As we begin to emerge from the other side of COVID-19, facing these extraordinary challenges requires honest contemplation and new thinking.
The podcast series “Food, Climate, & the Pandemic” presented by Merika Advisory, in partnership with Boulder Strategy House, engages key thought-leaders from the world’s sustainability frontline to ask two crucial questions: what have we learned and how does it impact climate strategy? Here are five takeaways from the discussions so far.
1. “The COVID-19 pandemic has offered us an extraordinary opportunity to feel ourselves as one planet.”
Seleyn DeYarus, At the Epicenter
The shared global experience of living through a pandemic has confirmed starkly the interdependence of everything. Viruses know no borders. Structural frailty and fallibility in multiple systems have been revealed: in farming, in supply chains, in financial systems. Our own health and vitality has life or death implications for surviving this virus.
2. “This is a profound moment for us to redesign what does not serve life anymore. It’s time we designed something that is in the service of life.“
Daniela Ibarra-Howell, The Savory Institute
There is a growing realization that we are part of nature, not separate from it; that nature is something to be protected and regenerated, not depleted and destroyed. There is a need for systematic change, a re-alignment of our approach that starts with our vision and values as human beings, asking ourselves what world we wish to create and inhabit, and then building our business, financial, and governmental systems towards that future.
3. “An apple is not an apple.“
Ali Morrow, Astanor Ventures
Building resilience through diversity must be a core outcome of all transformative systems thinking. On farms, this means polyculture versus monoculture. In the supply chain, it is diversification versus commodification. In our corporate and financial systems, this means moving from businesses that externalise costs and are extractive to a model that is regenerative and resilient. It also means building boards and corporate leadership teams that are inclusive, with uncompromising representation of women and people of colour.
4. “62% of consumers that are purchasing organic have those same values for their financial shopping cart, but a lot of them don’t actually know what’s in their financial shopping cart.”
We are hopeful for a continued awakening of human consciousness; a planetary recognition that borders are an illusion, that diversity creates resilience, and that there really is no ‘away’. Food is medicine. Local food is secure food, and we are the investors of our food system. Purchasing the food that has been produced and brought to market with the values that are fundamental to a healthy and resilient food system allows us, as consumers, to be a force for good. Let’s connect investors to their investments like we connect consumers to their purchases.
5. “You can put ethics and sustainability at the core and still make margin.“
Ben Arbib, Rebel Kitchen
All of the speakers on the podcast share hope for a continued awakening of corporate consciousness. In addition to ensuring diverse, equitable and just governance, embedding ethics and sustainability into the DNA of brands are building blocks of resilience. B-Corp certification can not only be a badge of honour in the marketplace, it can provide a framework to support and guide the culture of organisations that want to be good by doing good.
Finding optimism in adversity
“There is no longer any excuse to say that we cannot deal with climate change because we are witnessing how impactful humanity can be when it responds to global threats in solidarity.”
Elizabeth Candelario, MERIKA Advisory
In recent months, nature has shown us how quickly she can spring back the moment we allow it. We have learned that humanity can be mobilised in their communities and across borders; that people can change their basic behaviours in support of their own and their neighbours’ well-being. These are all essential ingredients not merely for change, but for radical transformation. The question remaining is: how do we create and implement transformative systems change?
Through our shared COVID experience, we have been reminded that our current operating systems are extractive, wasteful, risky and fragile, while regenerative systems promote connection, creativity, diversity, balance and resilience. In the words of Erik Bruun Bindslev of MERIKA Advisory, “Transformation can only occur when we let go of our conditioned operating models. By embracing our inner human knowing, we can begin this journey together.”
To listen to MERIKA’s podcast series, Food, Climate and the Pandemic, click here.
Erik Bruun Bindslev is a mission-driven brand builder, innovator, investor and venture partner through his advisory, MERIKA. As a leader in the mission-led, regenerative and plant-based food space, his work includes founding Wyse Organics in the USA and long-term advisory for Groupe Danone, Duchy Originals, Daylesford Organic, and many more. Erik is a board member and curator of The Klosters Forum 2020, sits on advisory boards of NGOs and was the co-creator of the Meat Free Mondays initiative in 2009.
Elizabeth Candelario has deep experience in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors and believes passionately in the role of business to drive social mission. Prior to joining MERIKA, Elizabeth served as Managing Director of Demeter USA, the nation’s only certifier of Biodynamic farms and products and a member of Demeter International, the oldest ecological certification organisation in the world. Over the course of her thirty-year career, Elizabeth has served in sales and marketing leadership roles in the wine and natural food industry.