The other side of the medal: Who is benefiting from Covid-19

We are living in a period called ‘’corona crisis’’. The pandemic effect is changing the rules of the way we live and work. Every country around the world is going through this challenge and each country is facing it in a different way.

Some countries, for example Italy, have implemented a lockdown system. People face various restrictions such as not leaving the house unless you have a very good reason or to do grocery shopping 1 time per week. The goal is to completely stop the spread of the virus. Other countries, for example the Netherlands, are trying to control the virus by applying less stringent restrictions. The goal is to distribute the spread of the virus over a long period of time in order to create an immune barrier.

The coronavirus is having an important impact on the global economy in several sectors such as supply chain and logistics. Airlines, freight forwarders and warehousing organizations must ensure an efficient flow of essential goods. This requires a high level of flexibility and a very strong leadership and motivation towards an insecure workforce. (https://www.scmexecutives.com/nl/nieuws/respect-for-operational-leaders-in-supply-chain-during-these-challenging-times)

Although the coronavirus is negatively twisting our lives, there is one factor that is benefiting from this situation: The environment. The reduced car journeys and industrial activities led to a decrease in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions across the world. China, the first country hit by the virus, experienced positive environmental implications of the lockdown. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area from a specific event.’’ said Fei Liu, Air Quality Researcher for NASA’s Goddard space flight center.

The Orient is not the only area affected by the change in human habits. The National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) has noticed a significant drop in particulate matter (PM2.5) in 10 cities of the UK. According to the London Air Quality Network, London has reached its lowest level of pollution since 2000. Furthermore, other countries are registering a decrease in NO2 emissions such as India, the Czech Republic, the USA, Spain, Italy and Russia as showed by the below images of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite.

The positive impact on the environment will continue in the coming weeks. However, these results are likely to be reverted once the corona crisis has ended, as it is already happening in China as lockdown restrictions are easing. But it doesn’t have to! The outbreak of the coronavirus can act as a ‘’wake-up’’ call to all firms to invest in more efficient production processes and apply more rigorous environmental policies to move towards a greener economy.

This (dramatic) experience can be a lesson for all of us from which we can learn how we can do things differently to preserve the environment. As stated from IPCC report and Watts in the Guardian, global warming is an issue which cannot be ignored due to irreversible consequences it can have on our future generations, and we have only 12 years to make a change before reaching the tipping point.

The time has come for firms from all sectors to act more responsibly towards the environment and to organize work differently. For instance, companies could:

  • Create awareness at all levels of the organization: many people still ignore, or are not fully aware of, the environmental implications that an activity can generate. Creating internal awareness can be the first step towards a greener approach. Setting visible and concrete long-term sustainability goals can foster creativity and adoption of innovative ideas aimed at improving the impact on the environment.
  • Allow employees more flexibility: The coronavirus has prompted several companies to close their offices. Mail, video calls and instant messaging apps have led employees to establish a relationship based on trust. Companies can move towards a more "smart working" model. This would lead to a reduction in expenses in the workspaces (water, electricity) and a reduction in the use of transport.

These are some examples of how companies could rethink and improve their environmental sustainability. Leaders do not have to see the world as perfect and their actions need to be geared towards change to make it a better place. We cannot change the world in one action. To achieve a better world, we must strive to continuously improve what we do. Current and future leaders will never have to think that there is no room for improvement. They must ask themselves every day if there is something they could do better than the day before.

Have you already thought about how to reorganize your company to improve sustainability towards the environment?

Valerio Vindigni

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