C-Suite Agenda

Why sustainability needs to remain a priority for the C-suite post COVID-19

Nick Gold, MD, Speakers Corner

The statistics from NASA, the BBC or from The Centre for International Climate Research to name a few sources demonstrate Nitrogen Dioxide levels have decreased since countries and cities went into lockdown. We’ve also seen carbon emissions levels have dropped and air quality has increased.  Due to circumstances that no-one could have envisaged a few months ago nor would anyone have wished to find us in, the world is undertaking a comprehensive experiment to demonstrate that pollution is something that we, the human race, both have a lot to answer for as well as can do something about.

Whether this is an anecdotal personal story about the sky looks bluer, the air smells cleaner, the road noise is at a minimal or it is studies such as the one by Marshall Burke at Stanford University which estimated that in the first 2 months of lockdown in China this reduction in pollution has saved the lives of 4,000 children under 4 and 73,000 adults over China, we as a society are seeing tangible impacts every day.

The problem for business, especially for those hit hardest by the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, is that the focus and fight right now is on survival during Covid-19 and how will both the economy in general but also an individual business will appear in weeks and months to come.

Therefore, the C-suite mindset needs to look forward. Over the coming months, there will be numerous periods where it will be all too difficult to avoid just looking at the immediate and focussed impact of the virus.  The C-suite must look at the wider picture, not just one of survival, but to steer the company, a sector, an industry back to growth and success.  This involves looking at all the factors and plotting a path forward which takes advantage of all of them.

Which brings us full circle back to sustainable thinking and the impact of Covid-19 on the environment.  This should be seen by business as a growth opportunity.  Demonstrating the sustainable and environmental attributes of a company are no longer just words on a page, nor are they something which if they pitch right will forge a bond between the company and its employers or the brand and its customers, they are fundamentally required to demonstrate tangible results.

Whether it is looking at sustainability practices of firms, worker conditions, health and safety and so on, COVID-19 is shining a light on everything that has gone before as we, in the face of such tragedy, question the how and why.  When we come through the immediacy (and who knows how long that term means) of the actual virus, the aftereffects will be the wider impact of the virus.

For those companies where the C-Suite were already switched on to the sustainable benefits both for their company and for the wider world, this is an opportunity to double down on their efforts and momentum, a chance to reinforce the focus they had prior to the virus and take a small congratulatory pat on the back as they know they were heading in the right direction and this should, in the medium and long term, with a sustained focus on this area, demonstrate tangible benefits in terms of survival and then growth.

For those companies, that were maybe behind the curve on sustainability or didn’t necessarily feel this was an area that impacted them, then they shouldn’t see this as a missed opportunity.  Whether they have been impacted or are being impacted by the new ways of thinking on business travel, whether remote working has opened up new possibilities, whether the pressure on the business has meant new ways of thinking, the role of sustainability and ethical working is a critical tool for the C-Suite to drive their businesses forward.

There is no doubt, while we all crave a return to normality, the new normal will have marked differences to the time before Covid-19.  Individual views of what this will look like is just supposition, guess work and gut for all of us now as we go through this passage of time.

But for the C-Suite, whose role is to scenario plan and look at the whole picture, there can be no doubt that COVID-19 has highlighted and demonstrated that sustainability and working practices is no longer a theoretical subject, nor is it something that can proudly proclaimed but is something that is tangible and actionable.  It is a critical element of business strategy that will play a major factor in the recovery and growth of the business. Sustainability is no longer an add on, but a major piece of the C Suite’s arsenal to deliver.


Written by Nick Gold. Have you read?
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Nick Gold
Nick Gold is the owner and Managing Director of Speakers Corner, a market-leading speaker bureau and consultancy with a portfolio of over 6,500 speakers, servicing over 1,000 events each year across all UK business sectors. Speakers Corner source and supply after dinner, motivational and keynote speakers, facilitators, awards hosts, comedians and celebrities for conferences and events. Nick Gold is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow Nick on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.