Covid-19 calls for environmental leadership
Studies have shown that cross-contamination of viruses between animal species and humans caused the spread of COVID-19. Major industrialisation projects contribute to deforestation and environmental degradation. Consequently, humans come into greater contact with wildlife which increases the rate of disease transmission from animals to humans.
Recent news report about the surge in ocean pollution. While fighting against the pandemic, we have generated tonnes of medical waste. Conservationists have found disposable masks floating in the oceans and latex gloves scattered across seabeds. Even in Singapore, with proficient waste management, the daily amount of medical waste collected in March was up by 60% from 2019.
This is the severity of our environmental crisis.
However, there is hope. Shutdowns in several countries have reduced industrial activities and traffic drastically. Two weeks after a nationwide lockdown in the UK, NO2 pollution fell by 40% in some cities compared to the same period in 2019. Places like Italy, Spain and the USA are experiencing better air quality like never before. The pandemic has given us a peek into how a low-carbon future could look like. It has shown us that it is possible to recreate an environmentally-friendly planet. This is our opportunity to build back better. We can pave a green way forward for our planet by employing green recovery strategies.
Pic Cr: Freepik
Sustainability as a business strategy
Sustainability is a resilient business strategy. Investors have been putting their money in companies with values that align with theirs. They normally rate a company based on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. Based on that information, they select businesses with a clear commitment to the environment. Research shows that stocks with high ESG scores have higher valuations and lower volatility than their less conscientious counterparts. The main reason is because high corporate social responsibility (CSR) nurtures greater trust from investors.
Also, companies with high ESG quality can develop competitive benefits. These include resource and cost efficiencies, reputation gains and fresh revenue-generating opportunities.
Therefore, considering the many advantages, companies should reorient and adopt green policies.
Environmentally friendly practices
Companies should take the initiative to create a more environmentally conscious company culture. International companies can show supply chain sustainability (SCS) by working with suppliers who promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). Also, they can look towards local suppliers. This reduces carbon emissions from intercontinental transportation and reduces disruption risks. Businesses can also build back better by operating at the highest efficiency standards.
Companies can make eco-friendly changes. They can reduce energy consumption from the big three sources- lighting, IT and cooling. Offices can consider less energy-intensive infrastructure like chilled beams or passive displacement ventilation systems, which also minimise infection risk. For example, Adobe has reduced its water use by 62% by using drought-resistant native plants, drip-irrigation systems, and many more.
Employees should be encouraged to adopt green transportation options like cycling and public transit. Or, companies can permanently implement remote working. The pandemic has shown us that working from home is possible, so why not continue investing in this flexible option? This will even cut transport-related pollution and urban congestion.
Individuals can enact change too
Pic Cr: Freepik
At a personal level, individuals have a part in being environmentally responsible too. Due to the pandemic and safety concerns, consumers have become more dependent on single-use disposables. In Singapore, an extra 1,334 tonnes of plastic waste was generated from takeaway and delivery meals during the circuit breaker period. This growth in plastic waste is a huge step back from the progress we made in decreasing plastic use.
To prevent the situation from worsening, we have to make mindful decisions. At work, employees can go paperless by switching to collaborative online options such as Google Drive or Notion. We can switch to reusables instead of disposables for takeaways. When given the option, say “no” to plastic utensils especially if they are not needed. By changing ourselves, our social circles are motivated to do the same. A call for change always starts from an individual. Do not doubt the power of one person! Every individual matters. For youths who are passionate about environmental protection, you can start a passion project to show your enthusiasm. It may not be specifically for your career, but it does show your authentic self!
In conclusion, this pandemic may well be a catalyst that calls for us to ‘build back better’. We should rethink things instead of patching up our previous ways. Let’s use this recovery process to make transformative change towards a sustainable society. Our planet does not need to head towards an environmental fallout. Everyone, down to each individual, should step up and start acting responsibly.
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