Victor Manuel Leal González
National Association of Manufacturers of Paints and Inks (ANAFAPYT)
Expert Contributor

New normal directs industries to be more sustainable

By Víctor Leal | Fri, 12/25/2020 - 13:00

The health contingency due to COVID-19 forced us to change throughout this year, not only in the social sphere, but also at corporate and industrial levels, which brought with it a slowdown in economies around the world due to the partial or total closure of businesses, along with the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Without a doubt, the year that is ending has been a test of resilience for everyone. We knew about pandemics from books and movies, but we never imagined that we would have to live it. Yet, here we are, separate but not distant; rather, we are aware that today, more than ever, alliances will help us to strengthen ourselves and move forward as an industry.

Despite the difficulties we experienced, not everything was bad. The confinement measures and restrictions on mobility served as an obligatory pause that improved air quality, since fewer polluting particles were emitted. In general, the quality of the environment improved, the water in the rivers became more crystalline, the plants grew, animals began to emerge, and there were even sightings of species believed to be extinct.
These signs are encouraging, but they provide evidence of the correlation between the health of the planet and human activity. Society, companies and governments must take into account that the next global challenges will be related to the climate and the environment.

Today, more than ever, it is essential to learn that Earth also needs a break and that we must be more respectful of it. We must understand that resources are not infinite, so we must use them as efficiently as possible, avoiding waste. This implies resilience, but also disruption and adoption of new forms of leadership. This crisis is also an opportunity for companies to pause, hit the reset button, and lead the way to a sustainable recovery.
The pandemic has negatively affected many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), coupled with the fact that it has accelerated socioeconomic inequality. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, affirmed that the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating effects due to the past and present failures of the world in terms of development and considered that countries are not yet taking the Sustainable Development Goals seriously, visible by the lack of solidarity and effective international cooperation.
According to the study “Sustainability: an imperative for the new normal,” prepared by consulting firm EY, the crisis has highlighted the need to redouble the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and emphasizes that health and sustainability are the crucial issues on which businesses must focus if they want to address the needs of the future consumer effectively.

Recovery must address sustainability, so companies must make the environment, social and governance the central focuses of their corporate strategy. To continue moving forward in an increasingly competitive and responsible environment, organizations must report not only on their financial performance but also on their nonfinancial performance. More and more people are concerned and aware of climate change. That is why ignoring this factor is not an option. In this regard, leaders must identify opportunities and promote the importance of embracing sustainability within work teams.

The pandemic has accelerated socioeconomic inequality, particularly in areas of health and poverty. In this sense, it is important to revalue the role of companies as generators of wealth and social welfare. In this regard, we have a very important responsibility to assume in the coming year, in order to mitigate not only the economic effects that the pandemic has had on a social and economic level, but also in terms of sustainability.
On several occasions we have had the opportunity to mention the benefits of sustainability, not only because it will allow other generations to satisfy their needs and have resources at hand, but also because sustainability pays, and it pays well. This is reflected in savings and better financial health for companies, but it also allows them to build a better reputation and, therefore, a better relationship with their stakeholders.

Photo by:   Víctor Leal