The case for business to lead a green and inclusive recovery – and fast

Post author image. Maria-Jose Subiela
image of Maria Subiela
Image of MJ Subiela

Maria-Jose Subiela, Director for Global Goals, Business in the Community, on how findings in the United Nation’s (UN) progress report on the Global Goals highlight the urgency for a green and inclusive recovery from COVID-19, with business at the forefront. 

It feels like the world as I understood it just a few month ago has broken into many pieces. As an advocate for the Global Goals, I believe we can re-arrange the pieces to build a better world than the one before COVID-19 hit us. This will be the challenge of a lifetime. 

Today marks the beginning of the meeting of the UN’s central forum for follow-up and review of the 2030 agenda1. In preparation, the UN Secretary General published the report on progress towards meeting the 17 Global Goals. This is a hugely valuable opportunity to assess the impact COVID-19 has had on our progress towards building the better world defined by the Goals.  

The report does not make for happy reading: the pandemic is pushing us back on the not-so-impressive progress we were making by end of 2019. The necessary measures to contain the spread of the pandemic have turned a health crisis into a humanitarian disaster.  

The virus is disproportionally affecting the most vulnerable – pushing millions into poverty, increasing food insecurity, bringing about the collapse of health systems, and increasing mental health issues and domestic violence2.  

School closures have affected 90% of the student population. According to the International Labour Organisation, as job losses are escalating, nearly half of global workforce are at risk of losing livelihoods3. The World Trade Organization estimates that global trade may plunge by up to 32% in 20204. Carbon emissions went down but are rebounding5 and progress on eradication of single-use plastics is being undone6.   

Furthermore, the digital divide is widening inequalities. In times of a pandemic, it’s more apparent than ever that connectivity is the enabler of basic rights such as employment, education, health and access to food and basic services.  

As we look towards building back, responsible business needs to be at the heart of urgently accelerating action to meet the Global Goals. 

At Business in the Community we are engaging with members and partners to define the priority actions responsible business must take to create a green and inclusive recovery, which we will share in September during the UN’s General Assembly week.  

In our conversations with business leaders, what keeps coming up is the speed at which decisions and changes have been made and implemented in the past few months. Businesses have the agility to transform fast, the trick is to balance immediate needs with a longer-term view. Corporate purpose should make for a useful compass to guide these decisions. 

As the operating environment and priorities change, businesses can’t be distracted from: addressing the climate crisis; taking action to support race equality; creating a skilled and inclusive workforceprocuring sustainably, and investing responsibly (including their pension pots).  

Each new decision made must be done through the lens of its power to rebuild better.  

We want to hear from you:

  • Share your organisation’s experiences of COVID-19 in our survey 

References

  1. The High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (2020); UN; available at sustainabledevelopment.un.org
  2. Coronavirus: Domestic violence ‘increases globally during lockdown’ (2020); Mohan, M; BBC; available at bbc.co.uk
  3. ILO: As job losses escalate, nearly half of global workforce at risk of losing livelihoods (2020); International Labour Organization; available at ilo.org
  4. Trade set to plunge as COVID-19 pandemic upends global economy (2020); available at wto.org
  5. ‘Surprisingly rapid’ rebound in carbon emissions post-lockdown (2020); The Guardian; available at theguardian.com
  6. Covid-19 has led to a pandemic of plastic pollution (2020); The Ecomomist; available at economist.com