Moving Beyond Now: Themes from the Ethical Corporation Virtual Responsible Business Week

Almost all aspects of day to day business operations have been disrupted by the current COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we are all becoming more innovative in how we conduct business and how we obtain information. To keep up on the latest sustainability and strategy best practices, I participated in the ,,Virtual Responsible Business Week from Ethical Corporation, a Reuters Events Company.

Sustainability leaders from across the globe shared their insights into how strategic approaches to “,,building back better” and the importance of understanding your organization in the bigger picture are vital concepts to keep in mind as businesses move forward. These insights are summarized below, grouped into common themes that were highlighted throughout the conference.

Pushing Beyond the Now

“Getting back to normal”, a household phrase from these trying times related to the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be the definition of global success. We have this unique opportunity to look internally and to “build back better” – a phrase commonly used amongst speakers. While there is some discussion around nomenclature and verbiage, what we do know is that we must take this opportunity to integrate sustainability concepts and approaches into business and operations. This means tying fiscal stimulus to green contingencies (,,A European Green Deal). This means new perspectives around wastes, adopting the elimination of waste through design, not just the incremental reduction of it. This means a phase out of carbon both on the demand side AND the supply side. We must put Climate Action at the Heart of the US Recovery.

Climate Issues and Pandemic Impacts

All of the climate issues that stood as the world entered into this pandemic have been exasperated – nothing is siloed. Inspired by Kara Hurst, ,,Amazon’s Head of Sustainability, now is the time to step into the roles of leadership and it’s the moment to go further, faster. We are EH&S and Sustainability professionals, leaders, and executives seeking to make a significant impact and apply strategic approaches to this lasting change. We cannot go back to a normal where we are living outside the bounds of our planet.

Business Sense and ESG (environment, social, governance)

It simply makes business sense to operate in alignment with ,,ESG. It’s difficult for business to succeed in a failed system, whether it be failing on the economic, environmental, or social front. We heard from Unilever and how it has demonstrated that when sustainability is at the core of the business, risk is reduced. It is vital that we turn investors into responsible stewards of our investments and broaden the understanding that when you invest in your supply chain along ESG values, it has a more significant and lasting impact versus splintered efforts.

Global Goals and Metrics

While some of the components of sustainability and CSR are qualitative in nature, even those that are quantitative – water use, air emissions, etc. – struggle to have agreed upon universal metrics and goals set around them. Proactively, we can ensure that our organizations are ahead of the curve by tracking our operational metrics using systems and dashboards such as the ,,Capaccio EHS-DashboardTM. However, there is still debate around the exact metrics and measurements to set on a universal scale. Elliott Harris, Chief Economist, ,,UNDP stressed that once set, we must also agree to revisit them as we move forward to continue to make progress.

Considering the Bigger Picture is Smart Business

Solutions must become broader as we move forward. No longer can we only think about the immediate challenge at hand. We have now seen the effects of disrupted supply chains, and how when businesses that are part of our value chain face challenges, the impact hits home. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to think about things in a much bigger picture, and to do so while considering many more externalities. If we are not active in helping to solve the problems of our value chain partners, we cannot expect to truly solve our own problems that lie further up the supply chain. This perspective brought to light by John Blood, ,,AB-InBev’s Chief of Legal & Corporate Affairs, was one that encompassed the theme of recovery in a post-COVID world.

Throughout the day, panel after panel urged those of us listening in to employ these bigger picture approaches, to ,,prioritize efforts, and to build back better. We have the opportunity to do just that and must act now.

To continue the conversation about how to prioritize efforts, track meaningful sustainability metrics, and apply sustainability concepts to your organization, contact Cristina Mendoza at ,, or visit our website at ,, for more information.