Sustainable Companies Could Lead COVID-19 Recovery

Sustainable Companies Could Lead COVID-19 Recovery

The COVID-19 lockdowns in many American states have been a trying time for businesses, but some businesses have been pioneering sustainable solutions.  
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Sustainability Through Shared Sacrifice: Bedrock Detroit company
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For example, consider Bedrock Detroit, a commercial real estate firm that accounts for 40% of Detroit’s downtown. Faced with Michigan’s stay-at-home order, Bedrock Detroit wanted to do something for the dozens of retailers who are its tenants. 
Where other businesses were resorting to layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, Bedrock Detroit decided to take the path of shared sacrifice. Bedrock immediately responded to the situation by offering tenants two iterations of rent relief. 
Rent Relief
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The first thing Bedrock did was waive rent for all retail tenants for the months of March and April. For small businesses, Bedrock waived rent through May and June. 
Moreover, for the remainder of 2020, Bedrock is only asking for 7% of gross sales in rent – for those tenants that remain open. 
Stephanie Appiah, Bedrock’s senior vice president of property management, described the company’s decision as motivated by a sense of home: “This is our home and in order to support our communities, we have to support small businesses.”
Higher Pay and Health Insurance: The Case of Sam Abbas
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Another business person who wanted to make a difference during the pandemic was Sam Abbas, founder of Afor Concepts. The company operates restaurants in Dearborn and Detroit. 
Abbas first responded to the pandemic by giving his employee's hazard pay. But as the situation worsened, many of his staff came to him with anxieties about their own health. Abbas decided to start offering health insurance. 
In his words: “I said ‘Okay, no problem. You guys stay with me, stay loyal to the brand and we will launch healthcare.’” 
Long before COVID-19, however, Abbas and Afor Concepts were committed to principles of sustainability. The company committed to paying fair wages in 2017. Afor Concepts’ restaurants also cite a desire to make “’ a conscious effort to minimize the negative impact we have on our planet.’”
When Abbas decided to boost employee compensation by 30%-50%, the decision seemed like a gamble. Abbas explains that they knew that the decision “would disrupt our equation” but thought that it was an experiment worth making. 
What Abbas believed was that offering a living, the sustainable wage would help his companies by increasing employee satisfaction, lowering turnover, and improving productivity. In other words, the company would benefit from happier, more productive, longer-working employees in ways that would more than offset the greater cost of the wages. 
High Wages, High Productivity 
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One of the benefits that the company has gained from raising wages is increased support within the community. Because Abbas’ restaurants hire within the community and pay high wages that lead to productive, happy employees, many friends and family members are coming in to support the restaurants. 
And Abbas sees other Metro Detroit businesses adopting the same approach, an approach all the more critical in the face of the pandemic. 
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Sustainability Continues to Hedge Mainstream Support 
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Sustainability was popular with the public even before the COVID-19 pandemic. A report from Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment found that businesses that were formally structured around sustainable business practices – certified B corporations – were 63% more likely to weather the 2008 recession. 
Have consumers continued to support sustainability during the COVID-19 pandemic?
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According to consumer research conducted by Accenture, the answer is a resounding yes. 
What Accenture found was that 54% of consumers surveyed made more sustainable purchasing decisions in late March and early April. 
As America continues to reel under the impact of an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the shared sacrifice approach to sustainability demonstrated by Bedrock Detroit and by Sam Abbas is more important than ever. 

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