We are living times of profound changes. While we know we can’t come back to what was normal before COVID-19, it is still unclear what the future will look like once this crisis is over.
And maybe that’s good news, if it gives us the chance to re-shape the kind of world we’ve always wanted to have rather than the one we thought we had to have.
As we watch the effects of the pandemic across the globe, systems and ideas that were considered tolerable a few months ago suddenly feel unacceptable and unbearable, such as the lack of a global universal health system, or the 2.0 billion people around the world without access to basic sanitation, as well as other inequalities.
In the same way, concepts that seemed unrealistic are now gaining space and consideration in a way that we never thought possible before. Some examples are the universal basic income discussions that are taking place in some EU countries, and the green recovery that’s being proposed by the mayors from many big cities like New York and London, who want to use this crisis to accelerate the transition to a low carbon society.
Inevitably, this new dynamic will also end up impacting businesses and organisations. To add value will always be the ultimate goal, but the challenge now is to live up to the new definition of value.
In a world where, for the past months we’ve been daily re-educated about what is important (protect the vulnerable, protect essential workers, buy only essentials) and what isn’t, does consumerism still have a chance?
Value, volume, price, all the marketing mix elements of products and services that are not in the set of those essentials will need to be to revisited if they want to survive a world where consumers are becoming just people. In the UK, a recent poll has shown that eight out of 10 Britons want the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over economic growth, which could be a good indicator of the type of value that will be demanded by the consumers of the new normal.
In the presence of an inescapable economic recession, where resources will be even more scarce, what are the sort of businesses that governments and the public will choose to save? Recent conversations about attaching green strings to bailouts for airlines, an industry that has been a massive polluter, are starting to plant the seeds of what could be the new competitive scenario of the surviving businesses.
This pandemic is reframing sustainability from a practice treated often as a “nice to have”, or a distant ambition, to a discipline that in times of resetting, can give us the tools to regenerate our role in society and our relationship with the environment.
Incorporating sustainable, regenerative thinking to every choice we make in the next months, individually or collectively, will contribute to establishing the foundations for a better future, one that is more resilient, more just, and more respectful of the planetary boundaries that endure life on Earth.
The normal pre-COVID was a given; the new normal is a choice.