What We Learn from the Coronavirus, We Can Apply to Sustainability

It’s Earth Day. Together, we can heal the planet. Here’s a silver lining in our current global crisis.

April 22, 2020

At the start of this momentous year, most of us would have placed sustainability and climate change at or near the top of our lists of global concerns. That was certainly the case for the editors of Signal 360; the subject of our April issue was the role of corporations in sustainability. Of course, the coronavirus changed nearly everyone’s focus, and rightly so. But while no one knows when this pandemic will lift, we all trust that through determined collective action worldwide, eventually it will.

And that collective action gives us hope — and insights — into how we might also shift the course of a more subtle, slow-growing threat. As a recent McKinsey report aptly stated: “The coronavirus crisis holds profound lessons that can help us address climate change.” Both climate change and the pandemic are systemic and nearly invisible threats that require governments, corporations, and individuals to visualize a future where the threat is mitigated, then take difficult and sometimes costly decisions that may cause short term discomfort. Together, we are learning new habits at a global scale, and we are also reminded how deeply connected we are to each other — through supply chains, public health infrastructure, and of course, through our shared biology.

Many leaders in the sustainability community point out that to succeed against the global threat of climate change, we must retrain ourselves to think beyond the short term. We must invest in more sustainable infrastructure, business models, and policies. The silver lining of the current crisis is simply this: We’re doing all of that now — investing in our public health infrastructures, reimagining our supply chains, and rethinking how we govern ourselves in a post-pandemic world. If we can do it with the coronavirus now, certainly we can heal the planet next.

Collective action can and must start small. With nearly all of us isolated at home, we’re all using far more resources like water, electricity, and yes, consumer packaged goods. Recognizing that fact, P&G has marshalled a group of its sustainability experts, and will publish tips and tricks that all of us can employ to make a difference while sheltering at home. In a post announcing the series, which the company is calling “Sustainability at Home.” Virginie Helias, P&G’s Chief Sustainability Officer notes, “This extraordinary situation is an opportunity for all of us to embrace our vulnerability and new sense of connectedness to others and the planet to re-imagine a better tomorrow. It starts with us, here and now, in our homes.”

With that in mind, we invite you to take a moment to read the fascinating stories about sustainability you may have missed in our April issue. Thanks for reading, stay healthy, and take care of yourselves — and others. We’re all in this together.