The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Climate Emergency are both real crises that humanity has to manage with long-term strategies and immediate action plans.

 

What we are witnessing today? Organisations are struggling to recalibrate their business models. Governments are designing packages worth trillions of dollars to help the economy. Many individuals are realising that their savings will not keep them afloat for long.

 

On the other hand, climate and environmental challenges are posing an existential threat to businesses (profits), people, and the planet. The cost of inaction is estimated at $600 trillion by end of the century. And unlike COVID-19, climate change will affect a lot more people a lot more severely.

 

If you thought COVID-19 was bad, wait until you see climate change

 

Unfortunately, COVID is but a dressed-rehearsal for the effects of climate change which is to come.

 

Will humanity finally learn to think past short-term profits and heed the warnings of scientists? Will we build for climate resilience to future-proof against what is to come? Or will we forget how bad things can get, and return to business-as-usual, or will we redefine the role of businesses and communities in ensuring the survival of both people and the planet?

 

As life with COVID-19 becomes the norm, we are faced with a choice: should we go back to how we were before, or do we need a serious rethink of how we live and operate today, both as businesses, organisations and communities? 

 

What can we learn from this pandemic? Business’ treatment of workers and their approach to emergencies have been thrown under the spotlight. Supply chain disruptions and the (in)effectiveness of health and safety protections in the workplace show that sustainable business practices are the foundation for crisis preparedness.

 

People are starting to build self-sufficiency and are coming together to find solutions to the pandemic. Communities have banded together to make personal protective equipment to meet the demand and protect front-liners. At the heart of it, people are assessing their priorities and rethinking their pre-pandemic lifestyles. 

 

Will we learn? Or will we forget?

 

The pandemic is no different from climate change – both are crises unavoidable on a global scale that require collective cooperation, and both reveal the misalignment between short-term priorities and long-term growth. The worst of the pandemic appears to be easing slightly, but climate change is and will only grow in its intensity and with it, the scale of the crisis. The COVID-19 slowdown is an opportunity to rethink business models and rewrite the growth equation. This will require new modes of operating, measurement, accounting, reporting, and investor engagement – in short, a refresh of the triple bottom line.

 

There has been a silver lining, if we really see it. The pandemic and the lockdowns globally has cleared the air, literally, brining all kinds of pollution under control. It has been like a breather for the planet, for its wildlife and us, humans. Also, for the most part, individuals played their role and stayed home, masked up, and maintained physical distances. This concerted effort by every individual has shown us that cooperation on a large scale to address a global problem is possible. Now, in the post COVID-era, we know we can work together to mitigate bigger issues such as food crisis, waste, carbon emissions, inequalities and injustices in our societies – all to shape a better future. Now the question is, will we come together in the wake of COVID-19, and make collective efforts to resolve everything that threatens our world and our people?

 

 

At the Cooler Earth Summit on 8 September 2020, our distinguished panel looks at the frailties of our current economic system and what is needed for rebuilding businesses and economies. The session will discuss the what growth could look like in the context of crises, and hear from social enterprises on balancing profits and purpose.