The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having unprecedented impacts on businesses and communities across the world. Although the long-term implications of the crisis are uncertain, one thing is clear: disruption within our tightly connected global economy has dramatic real, local and personal impacts on business and community. How sustainability is imagined and practiced is being heavily influenced by this disruption.

Amidst any major disruption there are some positives and opportunities, and the coronavirus pandemic is no different. Some positive sustainability changes resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and the economic and social response have been well documented. There has been a reduction in global CO2e emissions during the coronavirus pandemic. At the peak of the lockdown it was estimated that global CO2e emissions were 17 per cent below 2019 average emission levels. The Himalayas became visible from India for the first time in 30 years due to a reduction in air pollution. The canals in Venice have cleared up after reduced tourism. There has also been an increase in awareness of the cause of pandemics. As people reflect on the responses to the coronavirus pandemic, it has also spurred conversations about sustainability in business. However, this conversation is not entirely new. Sustainability in business has been discussed at large, particularly since the launch of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2016. What’s new about present conversations around sustainability centres on how the social and economic disruption of the coronavirus has disrupted thinking about business as usual. Disrupted thinking can be seen in 1) the challenge to be more sustainable through social responsibility and 2) the response to the disruption, by government and business, has shown that the ‘impossible’ is indeed possible.

In a pre-coronavirus world, working from home for all employees was ‘impossible’. Business meetings ‘needed’ to happen in person. And hosting conferences and large events online was largely unheard of. Liaising with interstate or international partners or clients in person was also deemed necessary, which meant air travel and therefore, carbon emissions. Economic recovery packages implemented by governments globally were unimaginable 6 months ago and surprisingly the packages are at odds with the philosophies of many governments. Over the last few months, the ‘impossible’ suddenly became possible.

Please click here to read the full “Sustainable business after the lockdown—business as unusual” article published at BSI Connection, written by Griffith Asia Institute researcher, Dr Rob Hales and Vanessa Taveras Dalmau.