Role of Sustainability Post-COVID 19 and the ‘Global Reset’ in 2021.

Most of us have taken time over the past six months to stop and think hard about our lives – our priorities, how we live, work, and interact with others. It has been a seminal moment and not always comfortable as individuals, couples and families have been confined within their homes over ‘lockdown’, and equally separated from other family members, friends, and colleagues.

Observing how everyone has adjusted to the restrictions caused by the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic since March, there have been revelations and many positives that have surfaced among the concerns, frustrations and devastating heartbreak experienced by many.

Having to coordinate our working and social lives around our homes has meant many have found time to spend with families, focus on the locale in which we live, support local business, learn to cook, and readjust our lifestyles and expectations at least for the short-term.

Mixed opinions of ‘what the future looks like’ vary considerably, and although new innovations will no doubt surface, our need as humans for social and physical interaction will eventually resume from the temporary distancing and quarantining we’re currently experiencing. Mixing with others in the home, at work, and public places will no doubt return to normal either with the onset of immunity to COVID-19 through natural means or assisted with interventions and vaccines. Changes are clearly underway, and adopting sustainable principles can improve our quality of life and enlighten how we impact on the natural world and utilise its resources. The turmoil caused by Coronavirus has thrown a spotlight on the need to focus attention on sustainable healthcare and food chains globally. These are just some of the areas that are likely to undergo transformation, and worth thinking about:

  • Retail – the change in shopping behaviours and use of online retailing forced by lockdown and social distancing measures. How will this impact on the whole idea of ‘shopping’? What will people buy and where? And the frequency of purchase of different items?
  • Transport – the reduction of traffic, reliance on personal transport and drop in use of public transport over 2020 so far has notably shown a huge reduction in emissions and improvement in air quality, especially within cities and urban areas. Will this have a long-lasting effect on people’s transport choices as we emerge from the pandemic period? How does the move to personalised transport, cycling, and reduction of time spent commuting in the short-term define what are choices of transport will be going forward?
  • Travel – the reduction in volumes of people travelling for business and leisure throughout since March has impacted hugely on revenues, resulting in fleets of aircraft and shipping lines reducing their operations considerably. How will these carriers rebound and resource themselves?
  • Food & Drink – many have rediscovered home cooking and new food options as their usual eating and drinking habits have had to re-orientate themselves around the home. Will the higher levels of food purchases and consumption continue through the food shops instead of cafes, restaurants and bars in the longer term? Will this impact on the type of produce people buy, and the food producers and farmers supply? Will the issue of child food poverty and the need for food banks be comprehensively addressed so that families and households no longer need to depend on them?
  • Hospitality – receiving and catering for guests in so many different venues will undoubtedly bounce back, as we naturally demand physical person-to-person interaction and require accommodation and nourishment of food and beverages. However, the challenge over the past 7 months has had an immediate devastating effect with venues having to adapt by limiting guest numbers, cancelling events, and reducing staff levels, mothballing premises, and even permanently closing some venues. What differences can there be, other than gradual rebuilding of the hospitality sector as society re-emerges from COVID-19 restrictions? Will the principles of sustainability extend to how better to support both their suppliers and workforce as part of maintaining standards and community wellbeing?
  • Healthcare – given the demands on the healthcare sector and the very public focus on how it has needed to respond to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, key areas of investment have become apparent. Funding and support of the workforce along with fit-for-purpose provision of resources served by robust supply chains will be an ongoing priority. Will this introduce new proactive, flexible strategies and thinking? Will the lessons learnt from this year drive a greater appreciation of integrated, coordinated working across the NHS, local authorities and healthcare providers?
  • Construction – the requirement for housing and greater demands for low emission, low carbon footprint construction will continue to influence house building as the demand for housing still outweighs the housing stock currently available. Infrastructure and large-scale civil engineering especially within the transport sector, will likely need to respond the impact of a ‘post-COVID 19 world’ where greater demand for cleaner transport and possible changing commuter behaviours will influence investment and priorities.  
  • Media – the pandemic has had a noticeable effect on the public’s view on the media, with contradictory advice, news items vying for attention and acceptance depending on their source. The misleading stories, opinions and statistics shared through social media, mainstream press and broadcast is likely to result in greater demand for accuracy, accountability, and integrity from the media owners. Will this prompt a re-emergence of tighter editing and controls? How will this affect social media and self-generating content platforms?
  • Fashion – notably fashion events have been curtailed and the shift in purchasing from the high street will impact on channel strategies for fashion brands and retailers. Will this shift also be applied to supply chains and sourcing strategies? How can brand owners improve the treatment of workers and communities that provide labour and raw materials in the production of their clothing lines? What measures will be taken to address excessive, polluting and wasteful water usage in manufacturing of materials, textiles, and garments?
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

The impact of sustainability and the changes ahead will potentially reach beyond these environments and extend to all sections of society including Science Research, Arts & Culture, Government, Education, Utilities & Energy.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how best sustainability will be applied in your sectors, and the possible shifts being considered for the proposed ‘global reset’ in 2021.

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