Before 2020, many business leaders had become interested in the concept of corporate sustainability. More and more consumers were altering their habits to benefit organizations committed to ethical, social, and environmental responsibility, so executives were considering adopting similar sustainability strategies. However, few were committed to rapid and substantial change — before COVID-19 emerged.
COVID-19 has accelerated the issue of corporate sustainability, along with numerous other business trends. Quarantined and socially isolated for months, consumers came to focus on the impact corporations have on society, and increasing economic pressure compelled executives to think twice about their ethical, social, and environmental practices. Rather than pushing sustainability programs off for a more stable future, many leaders have embraced sustainable change as part of their pandemic recovery strategies.
Though the novel coronavirus continues to be a threat, most business leaders agree that the world has reached a new normal and that companies can resume operations — after an economic recovery. The pandemic recovery period presents the perfect opportunity for businesses to develop and initiate corporate sustainability programs that encourage greater consumer engagement in the future. Here are two major reasons pandemic recovery could improve corporate sustainability across sectors.
Accelerating Technological Innovation
Interest in ethical, social, and environmental responsibility has not been the only trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital maturity was a business characteristic essential for success in the early months of the pandemic, and many organizations raced to digitally transform and capture consumer attention as the economy bounced back in 2021. As a result, many companies are operating with comparable levels of technological proficiency, and some business leaders are desperate to pull ahead of the competition with cutting-edge tech solutions.
Fortunately, the trend of accelerated technological innovation synergizes with the goal of corporate sustainability. Prior to the pandemic, many organizations published self-imposed sustainability goals — such as becoming carbon-neutral by 2030 or eliminating plastic packaging by 2025. However, the majority of such goals were and still are close to impossible without technological innovation. Thus, the drive to innovate in highly competitive markets could lead organizations toward solutions that improve their ability to reach their corporate sustainability goals.
Amidst pandemic recovery, business leaders should put resources into discovering and innovating solutions related to sustainable success. Advanced digital tools like AI may be critical to reforming processes, eliminating waste, and achieving goals that bring about greater efficiency within an organization and improve consumer relationships. Business leaders inexperienced with utilizing strategy technology might invest in an online course to improve their proficiency in this field, considering that corporate sustainability is best accomplished through technological innovation.
Balancing Profit and Purpose
For centuries, business leaders across industries have shared a common goal: increase profits. There is a pervasive myth amongst business leadership that corporate sustainability is a distraction that leads to the erosion of economic competitiveness. Beholden to shareholders and desperate to leave a legacy of success, many business leaders choose to ignore the call for corporate sustainability and focus on other initiatives that are more certain to drive profits up.
However, it is utterly untrue that corporate sustainability programs are a drain on corporate profitability. In truth, sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand, especially during the pandemic recovery period, when there is so much value in aligning business practices with consumer expectations. Already, all three generations of consumers have strong preferences for companies with sustainable goals, and most younger consumers are more than willing to pay more for products and services that are sustainable. Brands that can demonstrate commitment to corporate sustainability during pandemic recovery will be able to find a balance between the need to increase profits and the desire to imbue the workplace with a sustainable purpose.
The time for corporate sustainability is now. Though the economy may seem tenuous, business leaders cannot afford to wait to initiate corporate sustainability programs; soon enough, their competition will boast technological innovation and capture the consumer demand for sustainable practices, leaving the rest of the market far behind. Every pandemic recovery initiative must include plans for corporate sustainability, and leaders who engage with training and education in this field may be even better prepared for success.