Elizabeth Littlefield on Corporate Sustainability After COVID-19
The scale of change required of businesses is monumental to support the rebuilding of resilient institutions amidst the physical, economic, social, and political trauma of the pandemic. In the short term, companies will be judged on their ability to weather the COVID-19 economic crisis while marshalling resources to support their employees, customers, and suppliers through both economic and health crises. Those with resources will be evaluated on how they alter their businesses to meet the increased need for essential products and services. Businesses with a strong sustainability ethos pre-crisis had a powerful head start.
Through the recovery, companies will be judged on their ability to rebuild more environmentally, socially, and economically resilient institutions. This work will require a sustained level of collaboration between business, government, non-governmental organizations and philanthropic organizations to shape policy and enabling environments that allow capital to flow to where it is most needed; to align on standards for sustainability to ensure proper accounting of risks and successes; to pilot innovative solutions and launch moonshot initiatives; and to navigate new tensions between business and society exposed by the crisis.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, corporations are going to experience far greater—not less—pressure to do right by shareholders, regulators, consumers, and civil society, creating further impetus for positive change. More investments are likely to flow to companies and funds with strong sustainability credentials.
All businesses will be called on to transform practices and unleash resources, expertise, and innovation to rebuild a sustainable economy, a healthy environment, and economic opportunity for all.