“He had kept the truth from his mind a long time, but that morning it had forced its way to him with an aspect that brooked no denial that this time it was not just changes that were coming in his world, that all his world lay open and defenceless, conquered and surrendered, doomed so far as he could see, root and branch, scale and form alike, to change.”
H G Wells
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has provided an enormous shock to our way of life and economy. It’s still unfolding, and the consequences are unclear and uncertain. But is driving change in a crisis possible – or even desirable?
We are all struggling to find a new normal, and for many of us, that may be a long way off. We are focused on enduring or surviving the next few days, weeks and months alongside levels of uncertainty and unpredictability that many of us have not experienced in our lifetimes.
Driving change in a crisis | could our new normal be more sustainable?
Yet amongst this turmoil, there also seems to be a growing recognition that life after COVID-19, should that be possible, could and must be different. That we must be able to use this crisis as the impetus to work towards more resilient, sustainable and capable societies.
Does our current situation provide the conditions for improving life and building a better world?
Many people in sustainability, development, health and related fields have been calling for action to re-align the way we organise and run industries, societies and economies to better support health, wellbeing and a thriving natural world.
Will crisis allow change?
Will the COVID-19 disaster provide the impetus or shock needed to drive change?
At least three elements are needed to drive widespread or transformative social change:
- A strong case, need and desire for change.
- A triggering factor or shock to enable it.
- The capability (through vision. structures, governance, technology & practical solutions) to build momentum for change.
I think an overwhelming case for change has been made in previous years (see Great Acceleration, WEF Global Risks Report, UN SDGs) and the pandemic is certainly a shock, maybe a trigger.
I’ve long believed we have the capability to build a more sustainable, healthy and thriving world.
What we’ve lacked (I mean collectively – and not as an accusation) is making sustainability (and everything that entails) a sufficiently high enough priority in decision making, product development, policy, technology and the economy and economic decisions.
If like me you’ve studied sustainability, you’ll know that what’s in store in the longer term if we fail to change direction will have far greater consequences than COVID-19. We need transformative change in business and society – to remove the drivers and causes of negative impacts and to build resilience in our supply chains, climate, social structures and economies.
A hopeful agenda
But it’s not all gloom or avoiding dire consequences.
I believe driving change in a crisis is both possible and desirable. Fixing sustainability issues will bring huge social and economic gains, broadening markets and possibilities where we decouple activity from impacts.
This might just be the time to push for a more sustainable world, one that meets more people’s real needs – and those of future generations.
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