Robert Metzke, global head of sustainability at Philips, states on the World Economic Forum website: “At a time when governments are agreeing to economic stimulus packages to help people and organisations survive the likely recession, it’s our job – as global businesses and industries – to make sure that sustainability and climate action are embedded in these packages. We need to step up and work as one to realise this, just as we are currently doing in our fight against Covid-19. Together, we can ensure these key topics remain high on the agenda of national and international institutions, along with accessible healthcare.”
Times of crisis can bring about great change, as societies adapt to new challenges with resilience and ingenuity – but those changes need to be embedded in order to last. “Covid-19 has been a sustainability wake-up call for many people,” says Dr Arthur Krebbers, head of sustainable finance for corporates at NatWest Markets. “It has forced everyone to recognise that organisations don’t exist in silos and that sustainable business practices – those that take into account all affected stakeholders – are essential. Climate change, if unmanaged, will be exponentially worse for society. In recent months, many companies have been forced into a low-carbon operating model, working from home and limiting their travel. We have to habitualise these recent learnings to propel a true green economic recovery.”
A transition that’s beneficial to all
In making the adjustments required to achieve that recovery and progress to a low-carbon economy, there is understandable concern that the transition be inclusive and equitable. To this end, a €100bn Just Transition Mechanism has been established as part of the European Green Deal to help European regions most challenged by such a transition.
In the UK, chancellor Rishi Sunak is reportedly planning a programme to reskill people who have lost their jobs to work in clean industries such as renewables and carbon capture, and business secretary Alok Sharma has written in the Independent that the UK has “the opportunity to build back better through a clean, resilient recovery that delivers for both people and planet”.
And the payback could be huge – a new report commissioned by WWF and produced by Vivid Economics points to a possible £90bn annual boost to the UK economy, job market and public health from the net-zero transition.
“The Covid-19 crisis and response has seen a mixed bag of impacts on the environment,” says Rishi Madlani, the bank’s sustainable finance lead. “For instance, we’ve had some short-term positive impacts from improved air quality that I’m sure we have all enjoyed, and an ever-increasing share of renewables in our energy mix.
“I hope we can all take some time on this significant day to think about how a green recovery with an increased use of nature-based solutions might look post-coronavirus, and how we might tap into some of these enforced behaviour changes to accelerate our transition to a more climate-resilient future.”