We’re all experiencing a devastating pandemic, which affects the physical, psychological, and financial well-being of everyone on the planet. On the other hand, we’re also seeing the environment catching a break from excessive C02 emissions. The air is literally more breathable. Needless to say, experiencing these two phenomena carries mixed feelings with them.
How do we cope with these thoughts? Are we allowed to feel excited about the positive side effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the environment, or are the negative and positive effects impossible to separate? We asked our Head of Sustainability Ida Bohman Steenberg.
How do we cope with the desire to go back to how we used to live, without wasting the positive effects that the pandemic has had on the environment?
We all need to look at the bigger picture. Yes, the Covid-19 pandemic has indisputably had a multifaceted effect on everyone’s life. These effects are very easy for all of us to see, as entire societies have gone into lockdown mode. There’s no denying that the pandemic will have negative long-term effects.
But as we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t the only crisis we’re facing. We’re in the middle of a global climate crisis, which is so severe that scientists can’t say how devastating the effects will be within just eight years unless everyone – citizens, companies and the public sector – takes responsibility and starts acting now.
The number of refugees looking to find shelter will multiply as the climate will force people to leave their homes in order to survive. The climate crisis could end millions of lives and the next generation won’t be able to enjoy a planet as fruitful as the one we’ve grown up in.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but we have no other choice than to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve learned that we can be social without travelling or meeting up physically, we’ve learned to cherish what we have right in front of us. Most importantly, we’ve seen the potential of digitalization and the key role that is has played in saving countless jobs. The most important takeaway from this is that we’ve seen people completely change their lives and do great sacrifices to protect the well-being of others. I desperately hope that we’ll be able to conjure up the same collective strength when it comes to tackling the climate crisis as we do now when fighting the virus.
How do we stop ourselves from falling back into old habits?
Falling back into old habits is something I fear might be damaging to the climate. We, humans, tend to want to “reward” ourselves after going through hard times, such as going to Thailand after a long year of hard work or purchasing things that we don’t really need. We need to start thinking of how these rewards impact our environment and come up with new ways of feeling good about ourselves. I’m hoping the simple things we took for granted before will be rewarding enough, like being able to hug our grandparents again.
How should we interpret the concept of sustainability? As a vision, or a way of working?
Speaking for us as a corporation, sustainability is most definitely a way of working. Ambiguous visions do not carry much weight when it comes to decision making. Visions sometimes aren't anything else than fancy words at the beginning of a quarterly report. We put up long-term goals as well as short-term goals, and everything we want to change has measurable KPI's. Becoming sustainable is too important to brush it off and say “next year” – we’re doing all we can and we’re doing it now.
The key to success when making an organization sustainable is the same key that’s needed to solve the climate crisis – everyone needs to be on board. Once everyone is on board and the KPI's are measurable and understood, it’s not a matter of pondering whether or not to make a solution, product, or service sustainable. Instead, sustainability becomes a must.
As a corporation, we’ve come quite far on the way to becoming sustainable. However, we’re never done, so to say. There will always be areas that can be improved. At this point, I think it’s important to note that the absolute biggest impact we have on our environment is the one we have through our customers.
Thanks to great co-operation where our customers and partners choose to make sustainable choices benefitting from our expertise, we can have an even bigger impact on the world around us. The beauty of that is that making one sustainable choice tends to lead to making more of them.