The coronavirus crisis has changed the face of our society and the way we do business in the space of just a few months. From the tragic loss of life to the major blow to the economy, the impact of COVID-19 has touched us all in one way or another.
But one positive during this difficult time has been the impact on our environment. As our activity reduced, due to restrictions on our movements, the levels of pollution also decreased. In fact, according to reports, London alone, experienced an almost 60 per cent reduction in air pollution since the start of lockdown. A similar pattern has occurred across the globe, with many countries reporting cleaner air and lower emissions in recent months.
But as the world gets ‘back to work’, we must ensure that these green gains are not reversed. Recent figures from China, which show that air pollution figures are back to pre-pandemic levels, are a stark reminder of what progress could be lost.
In my opinion, we have never had a better chance of improving our planet’s health. As the world has paused due to the COVID-19 crisis, so has the deterioration of our environment. But as we edge out of lockdown, we must continue to build on our environmental achievements.
So this World Environment Day, I am asking: ‘Do we really need to go back to business as usual?’
We all have a responsibility to safeguard our planet, but what green expectations will there be on companies and individuals post-lockdown? And how can the government encourage more ethical business?
We have already started to see some positive movements throughout the pandemic, with several countries placing eco conditions on their coronavirus-related state support packages. UK government advisors have called for a green recovery, recommending that any funds earmarked for post COVID-19 economic recovery go to firms that will commit to reducing their carbon emissions.
France is also showing its solidarity for climate change. When Air France asked for a multi-billion Euro bailout in April, the government set out a range of green conditions. From a significant reduction of domestic flights, to reducing its overall carbon-dioxide emissions and renewing its fleet with more efficient aircraft, the government’s finance ministry has made it crystal clear that the bailout will only apply if Air France contributes environmentally.
However, just over the border in Germany, the government has faced a huge backlash for granting a €9billion bailout to Lufthansa, with no green strings attached. A sign that ignoring our sustainability responsibilities is no longer acceptable.
And it’s not just environmental conditions that are influencing state support. Many European governments have insisted that they won’t be offering support to those companies that are registered in a tax haven. Recognising the injustice of funding those that refuse to contribute to the system, some countries have declined bailout and furlough requests from companies that don’t comply with tax laws. This marks a great opportunity to clean up on tax avoidance and make the world a fairer place.
We all have a role to play in supporting our economy and environment. In the post-lockdown world, there is no place for selfish, unethical business. If you want to benefit from government-supported recovery, you must contribute to the system and commit to improving your carbon footprint.
This is something that we have always championed at Facilicom. From our financial transparency to our eco commitments, we have engrained sustainability at the heart of our operations with three intrinsically linked dimensions – people, planet and profit. This balances our responsibility to our colleagues and environment with the commercial aims of the business.
We have always strived to look beyond the bottom line to the legacy we can leave on our society and environment. And as we get to grips with the ‘new normal’ post-lockdown, we will continue to contribute towards the nation’s prosperity, both economically and environmentally.
To find out more about our sustainability policy, visit https://www.facilicom.co.uk/sustainability
Jan Hein Hemke
Managing Director at Facilicom UK & Ireland