As the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic continue to spread, we at BSR are working hard to continue supporting our member companies around the world, along with our many other partners, as you navigate this extraordinary and unprecedented time and contribute to our collective well-being.
From speaking with many of you, we know how challenging it is to manage effectively during this difficult and uncertain period, which poses significant impacts on your businesses, employees, and supply chains. Many of us are also coping with the stress of health impacts on ourselves, our families, and our communities.
This remarkable moment calls on all of us to bring our very best. We are quite literally writing history through countless acts and decisions we make every day.
Our approach at BSR can be summed up in six words: Meet the Moment. Build the Future.
Here’s what we mean by this.
Meet the Moment
It is essential for all of us to adapt sustainability activities to address the profound short-term needs faced by companies, employees, and communities in these challenging times. From speaking with many of you over the past few weeks, we know that you are facing new, unprecedented questions. How do I ensure that we continue with our commitments when our business is in such difficulty, with budgets under intense pressure? What is the right thing to do to support our employees, and those who are employed in our supply chains? How is the economic crisis impacting traditionally marginalized groups, and how can we respond to that? Can we reorient manufacturing to deliver on health care needs? Should we publish our sustainability report at a time when doing so might appear tone deaf?
We have been proud to see so many of you take action to protect employment, help generate badly needed medical equipment, provide capital, and support essential public policy steps to address the health and economic impacts of this pandemic. We are here to help you think through how to respond, to build partnerships, and to amplify your efforts.
Build the Future
As challenging as the day-to-day is right now, this is also a time to think ahead to building a fundamentally different future. For business, this means more emphasis on resilient business strategies, something which we have been discussing with many of you, and is now much more than an abstract concept. Sustainability questions can and should be a core element of such strategies. We also see the rising importance of ensuring societal resilience. This is why business has a strong interest in remaking the social contract to meet 21st-century needs, ensuring economic vitality, stability, and security. We know also that the next challenge to resilience could come from environmental challenges that risk creating serious social disruption and economic loss. The future may not seem relevant right now, but if this episode teaches us anything, it is that change can come more quickly and powerfully than we might think.
We are here to help you both meet the moment and begin to think about how to build a different future. We know that the pandemic is having a profound impact on your business. We also know that sustainability can be one of the core elements of navigating this crisis while also bolstering your position once the crisis passes. To help you achieve these goals, we are re-orienting some of our activities to help you meet these extraordinary circumstances, while also staying focused on longer-term objectives that remain extremely important, and indeed, could be seen as even more important.
- Communications: We will be producing a series of blogs and webinars to help you understand and discuss the impacts of the pandemic on sustainable business, both overall, and on specific issues like human rights, women’s empowerment, and the impact on ESG investing. In addition, our industry teams are bringing member companies together to share challenges and best practices within their sectors.
- Collaboration: We have shifted many of our collaborative initiatives to virtual formats, and the initial signs are that these are delivering on group objectives well, in some cases with even more participation as virtual models take hold. We are also speaking with many of you on how we can generate new collaborations that meet the moment, whether staying focused on climate action despite turbulent times or designing more resilient supply chains that will be needed once the crisis subsides, and we welcome your inputs on other matters we can help you navigate with peers. We also remain mobilized to support you one-on-one via advisory work.
- 21st-Century Social Contracts: We are accelerating our work on 21st-century social contracts. We welcome your engagement on this crucial issue, and will have content coming in the next two weeks on how business can not only meet short-term needs, but also contribute to more resilient social contracts that enable economic vitality, as well as economic mobility and security in a fast-changing world.
- Emerging Issues/Scenarios: To help you stay focused on the future, we are launching the first in a series of emerging issues briefs in June. This will be delivered by our Sustainable Futures Lab and will be based in part on a virtual salon in late April.
This crisis will pass. Our world, our businesses, and our economies will not look the same in the post-pandemic environment. But our values and objectives will not only endure, they will provide the very basis for seeing us through the crisis. They will also serve as the foundation for structural changes that produce more resilience, more economic fairness, and an ongoing commitment to preserve natural resources.
And these values will guide us as we meet this moment and build the future—together.