There are ten years left to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) while global emissions need to be curbed by 45% to put the world on the path to deliver the Paris Agreement.

It is a crucial decade of action that will require unprecedented transformation from the private sector that aligns operations and value chains with net-zero by 2050, transitions outputs to circular economy models, and alters their financial approach and re-define value itself in order to support all of these shifts.

And yet, some are concerned that corporate sustainability and climate action are slipping down the agenda as businesses struggle financially amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Many CSR professionals and boardroom executives have reiterated that long-term sustainability agendas will not be dampened by a comparative short-term disruption. However, many believe that how sustainability integrates itself into the boardroom may evolve post-pandemic to enable businesses to focus more on long-term resiliency and sustainable and ideally green economic growth.

Those views are echoed by aluminium manufacturer Ball Corporation’s president of beverage packaging from the EMEA region, Ron Lewis. Speaking to edie, Lewis claimed that as businesses and society approach a new normal once the disruption from the coronavirus eases somewhat, more stakeholders will be much more engaged with the efforts of the sustainability team.

“Sustainability is already a really important lever for employee engagement, and I think it’ll grow,” Lewis told edie. “You want to work for a company that cares about the world we all live in, especially now. It’s the case for any company for any business that is leading on [sustainability], people become really proud of their organisation’s sustainability agenda.

“I’m hopeful that we as a society value environmental benefits even more, going forward. It does feel like all of us are going to make different choices after [the pandemic].”

Science-based rhetoric

One of the many teachings of this disastrous pandemic is the need to listen to the science; indeed, most government responses to the Covid-19 outbreak has been to follow the advice of scientific advisors.

Whatever ‘new normal’ that businesses find themselves in it is highly likely that those able to set themselves apart from other businesses when it comes to championing sustainability are the ones committing to science-based targets.

Lewis noted the importance of being able to align business practices to climate science in order to showcase demonstrable progress against the needs of the planet.

At a time where the plastics and fossil fuel industries are attempting to denounce science in order to profit from the coronavirus outbreak, many economists and health experts are now noting the need to listen to the advice of the scientific community. Businesses that can showcase verified reductions aligned to climate science will have an easier time of appeasing investor, employee, consumer and customer queries on due diligence going forward.

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