‘If your business doesn’t have a sustainability plan by now, you could be left behind.’

These were the words of Lorraine McCann from Ernst & Young during an interview around this time last year in Silicon Republic. McCann is a senior manager at EY Ireland and leader of its climate change and sustainability program.

She had also professed at the time that, in EY’s case, a sustainability strategy had led to a happier and healthier workforce overall and that sustainability is much more than a business trend.

Fast forward one year later, when the world has experienced the largest change ever seen – in our health, social, business, and personal lives with of the arrival and spread of Covid-19 across our world.

As a direct result, our behavior has changed quickly and dramatically, with little chance for us to question what was happening. Our personal lives are certainly set to never be the same again, but there is an argument that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Less focus on material possessions, because we simply haven’t been able to accumulate like we used to, or spending more real-time with family and close friends.

But one positive change that is obvious and certain, is the renewed hope for our planet. Over the last two months, we have seen less traffic on our roads, in our skies and even on our footpaths, as people follow the directive to stay indoors. Our atmosphere is less polluted and our wildlife is blooming.

As the public becomes more aware of the joys of a cleaner and better environment, they are starting to place demands on businesses to get their act together (for those who haven’t already) to engage in more sustainable practices.

A result is an increasing number of businesses now committed to rolling out a more sustainable plan for their organizations. And not before time.

But what we believe will be different from now on, is how companies and brands will be held to account by their customers. Customers want real change and will vote with their feet if they don’t see it happening quickly. They are not interested in PR initiatives, they want action. Because over the past two months, a few things have happened to the average consumer.

They have spent less money on fast fashion because they had nowhere to go. Now they are starting to question the amount of clothes they have and realize that they can recycle, upcycle or just do without. People have been experimenting with natural skincare and are embracing more ethical ranges.

Cooking at home makes people understand food choices better. Working from home means that the decision to buy a new car takes more time and consideration and that now perhaps, an electric car might make more sense. And with holidays abroad off the menu for now, people are back looking at ‘Staycations’.

And so it goes on. People have been forced to look at their spending habits and for the first time in a long time, question the choices they are about to make, rather than rush out to buy.

And this is where businesses need to be ready. Utility companies engaging in renewable energy will do well now, as will those in the motor trade offering practical and affordable electric cars. Fashion and skincare brands have made great advances over the past few months and there are more ethical choices now available for consumers.

Supermarkets have had a bumper few months, but as things start to revert to some form of ‘new normal’, there will still be a demand for them to cut packaging, ditch plastic, source local suppliers and look at a solid recycling scheme. Refill stores are paving the road ahead here already.

“Sustainability has come from a place where it was previously seen to be a ‘nice to have’ and a ‘differentiator’, to a point now where it provides a social licence to operate and is a requirement to do business,” Lorraine McCann said this time last year.”

With the recent reprieve from the fast-moving, hectic lifestyles we had become used to, we have been given a chance to stand back and look at the way we produce and consume. We may never get this chance again.

This is the time. Let’s begin again 🙂

‘Contracts are being won or lost on the basis of sustainability performance’

Read the article from Silicon Republic here (July 2019)

Original article by Silicon Republic. Edited by Wasted.ie