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Earth Day is an event which has had increasing significance over the past few years, but the COVID-19 pandemic gave it a particularly deep resonance this year. Even just a few months ago we knew that climate change was going to be one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime, but it remained a fact rather than a feeling. With COVID-19 upturning every corner of our life and delivering biological vulnerability and grief right into our overwashed and sore hands, we’re living through a constant reminder of our own mortality.
And as Earth Day reminds us, this may just be a mild warm up for what’s to come.
For the sectors that we focus on at Quorso – retail, restaurants, hotels and transport – many businesses have been scaled right back into damage-limitation mode, and many can only sit tight and wait to see how the crisis unfolds. Planning for any kind of future may seem futile at the moment, but it might be the perfect time to start shaping a new business model. Many businesses have long known that they need to transition to something more sustainable, but have found they didn’t have the time or space to address it, or were too entangled in traditional ways of approaching things. With the status quo crumbled, companies can reconsider their old ways and build back up a refreshed version of themselves.
In the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020, business leaders rank Climate action, Extreme Weather, Biodiversity Loss, and Natural and Environmental Disasters as 5 of the biggest and most likely risks to business.
The current crisis has made two things vividly clear. Firstly, business prosperity is built on the health of consumers, workers and the markets they create. If business operates in a way that undermines the health of the general population, it will end up killing itself in the long-run. The second is that public health is intimately tied to the wellbeing of our environment – when we start driving it to unnatural extremes that humans aren’t usually exposed to, it leaves us open to disease, suffering, and death. And this optimal environment is very likely to vanish forever – Shell’s Sky scenario suggests that we may just be able to meet the 1.5°C warming limit that avoids permanent environmental damage, but to do so would require the ‘greatest collective action in history’.
Although it’s unpredictable, overwhelming and scary, the pandemic might actually give us more cause for optimism. The global response to Covid-19 gives us encouragement that we are capable of uniting to utterly transform our economies, businesses, and lifestyles, when our own mortality is at stake. Will we collectively ride this wave of encouragement to take on the next biggest challenge of our time: the climate crisis?
Navigating sustainability data has however always been tricky. Although standards like the Global Reporting Initiative and Future-Fit Business are emerging, it can be hard to know what goals to aim for and where to begin with initiating action.
Prioritizing focused action, drawn from intelligent data analysis, is an area where Quorso excels. So Dan Cunningham, our Product Lead, put Quorso to work, by pulling global carbon emissions data into the platform. The results identified significant opportunities to reduce emissions across 161 countries that, if actioned successfully, could collectively reduce global emissions by 52%.
Over 800 leading companies worldwide, including Wal-Mart, M&S, McDonald’s, Hilton, and Chipotle, have set Science Based Targets, consistent with limiting global warming to well below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. But how do such companies actually operationalize rapid progress towards those targets?
A sustainable business has to innovate and execute across their financial, social, and environmental metrics all at the same time.
Earlier this year we launched a new feature in the Quorso platform, which allows businesses to set these kinds of non-financial goals, then optimize decision-making and prioritize action towards them, balanced with – or even reinforcing – their financial goals.
For Quorso, operationalizing sustainability means moving from annual reporting to monthly or even weekly tracking of progress. This way businesses can rapidly understand what really works, harness opportunities promptly, and learn on a constant loop.
Even more importantly, it means that companies can collaborate on sustainability initiatives and drive compliance and resilience across the business – the level of coordination and scaling required for Shell’s ‘greatest collective action in history’.
Whilst many businesses have found themselves blind-sided by the COVID-19 catastrophe, the strongest and most adaptable will use this time to build stronger, more sustainable business foundations for the long-term.