Corporate sustainability key in co-Covid world
Sustainability becomes increasingly relevant against the backdrop of the global conundrum of Covid-19
The Covid-19 crisis directly affected the ways in which businesses and organisations functioned and as the ravages of the pandemic continue, corporate sustainability becomes an idea of paramount significance for both a co-Covid and a post-Covid world. Corporate sustainability aims to create long-term stakeholder value through the deployment of a holistic and ethical approach. It takes care of all aspects of doing business, manages risks and ensures employee development. As remote working becomes the new normal and the world remains unlikely to go back to pre-Covid realities, it is a good idea to revisit and reassess how businesses can stimulate longevity while giving more to the world and their employees.
Sustainability becomes increasingly relevant against the backdrop of the global conundrum of Covid-19. From health and safety activities to business advisory to philanthropy to climate action, it is the moment for companies to test their resilience in the face of unexpected upheavals and challenges, while bolstering their commitments to the world. Globescan in a 2020 survey found out that 47 percent of the respondents anticipated budget cuts for measures to ensure sustainability. This could be dangerous as the prevailing adversity requires us to step up the game on sustainability, instead of withdrawing from it. The need of the hour is to secure the present as well as the future, as an ideal post-Covid scenario is dependent on the decisions of today.
In times where environmental resources such as oxygen become scarce in relation to a burgeoning demand, the environmental impact of doing business cannot be disregarded. This finds exemplification in a rise in decarbonisation startups. Innovation towards sustainability has been achieved by startups such as Carbfix, which figured out ways to permanently dissolve carbon dioxide in water and congeal it into rocks, ensuring storage of tons of carbon dioxide. Outside these companies devoted to environmental innovation, all organisations must endeavour to reduce their carbon footprint and e-waste generation, and figure out climate-friendly reliance on technology.
Human rights and social justice have also acquired new pertinence in the same vein. This requires companies to recognise the material and social conditions workers hail from, and commit to a regime of fair and timely wages, greater protections and safety at work. In times of disease and death, these measures can prove undeniably. instrumental. For instance, several organisations transformed the physical workplace to assure Covid safety for employees. Working on-site, when needed, consequently became a relatively applicable idea despite the dangers posed by viral spread.
To think of the human aspect of this approach a little further, employees have been integrated into a 'work from home' regime, with minimal dependence on the usual workspace. This has important repercussions as the work and life domains of employees became conflated and concerns such as attending to one's parents and developing content for work became part of one lifestyle. Accordingly, a flexible work environment becomes crucial for sustaining a motivated pool of workers. Businesses must keep workforce development in mind and need to provide new incentives to the people they employ— flexible deadlines, mandated leave days and increased communication between the management and the workers can all prove beneficial in this regard.
Forbes notes how a study conducted by Ohio State University observed how as the thoughts of employees turned increasingly to the pandemic, their anxiety levels rose leading to them becoming less engaged in their work. The best coping occurred when managers took care of the priorities and needs of employees, which at this time included their emotional suffering, helping to empower employees and boost engagement. Such endeavours are indispensable in times of dire predicament, but also provide a worthy model to be carried into the foreseeable future.
Corporate sustainability, differing from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has an immediate futuristic imperative. While CSR is about self-regulation to achieve philanthropic aims, corporate sustainability is geared towards holistic development and sustenance to think ahead. Ideas tied to sustainability are aimed to achieve plausible results such as cost-effectiveness, image building and better work experiences. Therefore, as we deal with the co-Covid world, we need to be far-sighted to make the post-Covid world inherit favourable situations. Measures towards greater employee development and security, socio economic justice, resource utilization and environmental protection will go a long way in creating resilient systems which can withstand the shocks of human existence and offer exceedingly better opportunities and spaces for value creation.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, "The best way to predict your future is to create it." As businesses go ahead to energise our existences and provide to the world, the future they craft will be glorious with an embracing of sustainability. A holistic engagement and a commitment to create exemplary work conditions, employ ethical business practices and deliver value to people will only bolster the durability of a glorious future to envision.
(The author is Founder,
Upsurge Global, and Senior Advisor, Telangana State Innovation Council)