Will COVID-19 be the big break for sustainability and the climate?

Words: May Al-Karooni

Globechain founder & CEO (and Conduit member) May Al-Karooni reflects on the ways in which COVID-19 has forced us to reassess our genuine needs and the impact this may have on the future of the planet.

In 2015, the United Nation Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which focus on ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Achieving these goals, according to UNDP, “requires the partnership of governments, private sector, civil society and citizens alike to make sure we leave a better planet for future generations.”

At the end of 2019, the climate crisis was elevated to a climate emergency. Yet, there seemed to be little cohesive global unity towards solving it and most countries admitted to being behind on their goals. Fast forward a few months and we have been hit by a worldwide pandemic, forcing everyone to stop in their tracks. Amongst the Covid-19 headlines are news stories around the reduction in air pollution in cities, animals freely walking around in areas usually inhabited by people and communities coming together to help each other.

The knock-on economic effects of the crisis are being felt by everyone globally and this means we are all having to re-imagine what the new world looks like. Amongst the uncertainty, there are common themes that I believe might become embedded in the new normal.

A New Hierarchy of Needs

Community

A strong sense of community has been reignited, with compassion and empathy being key drivers for acts of kindness. There has been an emphasis on family and a realisation of the importance of time together. This unity may continue as we rebuild our neighbourhoods by collectively finding innovative solutions on how we can continue to support the vulnerable, small businesses and local charities.

Sustainability

We have been shown the impact of our day-to-day activities were having on the planet and the results of lockdown. Nature has demonstrated her ability to bounce back and remind us of how important it is for us to shift from an on-demand consumerism lifestyle to one of being more conscious of our carbon footprint. This will result in an increase in pressure on brands to become more environmentally sustainable – and they will be held accountable if they aren’t.

Communication

Covid-19 has taught us to take responsibility for our actions; that we need to shift from a me-centric to a we-centric view; and that we must recognise we are in this together. Through this we will see people’s priorities shift and a call for more transparency in communication, especially in how information is conveyed through the media and from government leaders. We have also discovered new ways of leadership. Our communication channels had to change drastically overnight and people realised that those endless meetings could actually be done via 15 minute calls – or even not at all! We’re learning to have greater trust as we’re forced to conduct business virtually. It’s been a blessing to see what we do and don’t want to carry forward from our old lives and to start developing new strategies and modes of communication.

Circular economy and ESG data

A focus on health, food shortages, store closures and cleaner air has caused many of us to revisit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and realise that we no longer need all the material possessions we once thought were important.

The shortage of PPE has highlighted the vulnerabilities in supply chains, the reliance on specific countries for materials and the logistics required to receive those parts, as well as opening our eyes to black market opportunists.

With the economy in turmoil, there is no better time for businesses to rebuild their foundations on more ethical and sustainable business models. Embracing the circular economy model principles of reduce, reuse and recycle is just the start. Investors have also started highlighting that ESG (Economic, Social and Governance) data will become a priority metric by which companies are valued, meaning it is even more important that sustainability be one of the main conversations at the board meetings and P&L accounts. 

We now have the opportunity to prevent the next crisis and achieve the 2030 SDGs by integrating into our strategies the key priorities of community, open communication, sustainability and transparency by adopting a circular economy model and generating social impact while still being profitable.

May Al-Karooni

May Al-Karooni is the CEO & founder of Globechain, the largest reuse marketplace that connects corporates to charities, small businesses and people to redistribute unneeded items, generating social impact data.
 
In 2019, Globechain launched in Spain, United Arab Emirates with the Royal family, hosted a panel at COP25 Madrid and won multiple awards including May being recognised as one of the Women Leading in Real Estate.

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