This month's magazine considers the profound and far-reaching changes to global business in the wake of the pandemic, from a heightened awareness of biodiversity risk to how it may reshape corporate accounting
"This Changes Everything" is the title of a powerful 2014 book by the Canadian environmentalist Naomi Klein on the climate crisis, which I packed in my suitcase when I attended the 2015 Paris climate talks.
But it could equally be recycled, in good circular economy fashion, for a book about the Covid-19 crisis, which will wreak changes for global business far more profound and far-reaching than the two previous shocks of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis.
So what will the “new normal” look like, for climate action as well as other areas of the sustainability agenda?
This month, we’ve revised our editorial schedule to examine how Covid-19 has changed sustainability, with reportage from some of our top writers, and commentary from our community of distinguished thought-leaders and professional practitioners.
We open with a report from Oliver Balch, who interviewed the heads of the leading sustainable business platforms to find out how Covid-19 has changed their strategy. He talks to Peter Bakker, of the WBCSD; Katherine Brown of the World Economic Forum; Lise Kingo of UN Global Compact; Dr María Mendiluce of We Mean Business; and John Denton of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Angeli Mehta reports on what Covid-19 is teaching us about the importance of biodiversity and why failure to implement zero-deforestation commitments will lead to more pandemics in future.
She also weighs the early evidence of whether the pandemic will flatten the curve of climate change by speeding the energy transition.
Mike Scott, meanwhile, writes about how issues like fair tax and executive pay will be a bigger focus of ESG investors going forward as they shift from environmental factors in assessing corporate performance.
And Mark Hillsdon reports on how the safe management of water, sanitation and hygiene has ratcheted up the business agenda.
John Elkington of Volans leads off the commentary, arguing that a radically different form of corporate leadership will be required for business to come out the other side of the pandemic. John Morrison of the Institute for Human Rights and Business hopes that the social contract will be rewritten, with a fundamental change to the relationship between workers and companies.
Phil Bloomer and Alysha Khambay of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre say brands mustn’t shift the financial burden of the crisis to the low-paid workers in their supply chains, while Andrea Bonime-Blanc of GEC Risk Advisory gives US corporate leaders a roadmap for leadership through the crisis. David Grayson of Cranfield School of Management in the UK says companies should use ethics as their cornerstone as they “build back better”.
Delphine Gibassier of Audencia Business School in France highlights the importance of natural capital accountancy in a post-Covid-19 world, pointing to Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics model.
Meanwhile, Dr Sally Uren of Forum for the Future considers how governments can build up digital herd immunity without infringing on privacy rights as they plot a way out of lockdown, and Dr Suchith Anand of Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition calls for a democratisation of information to address hunger and poverty in vulnerable agriculture-dependent countries.
Caroline Rees of Shift says there is no longer any ambiguity about what stakeholder capitalism means: companies must protect the vulnerable.
Lise Kingo of UN Global Compact ends our May issue with a message of hope. She argues that we, as a human community, can lift ourselves up from our darkest hour by creating a world where the worth of men and women count equally. “It will be a better world for everyone,” she says.
And that certainly resonates with the message in the book on my bedside table at the moment: “The Future We Choose – surviving the climate crisis”, by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.
When the authors wrote: “Future generations will most likely look back at this moment as the single most significant turning point for action” they weren’t referring to Covid-19. But one silver lining of the pandemic is that it demands radical action from companies and governments to rebuild and restructure economies now – not in 10 years’ time, when climate action would be too late.
We can’t let this window of opportunity slam shut again without having made the right choices to secure the future of our children and grandchildren.
You can access our free-to-download magazine by clicking on the cover below. Next month, we will continue the theme, examining how the circular economy agenda is being affected by Covid-19.