The Need for Environmental Leadership

The Need for Environmental Leadership

Covid-19 reshaped the world in a matter of months, and no one knows for sure how long it may continue to profoundly affect the way people around the globe live. But as Neal Myrick, global head of The Tableau Foundation, explains, what is certain is that post-Covid-19 there will be more of a need than ever before for environmental leadership.
Covid-19 led to an economic slowdown across much of the world that has actually been beneficial to the environment, for all that it has come at the terrible cost of lost jobs and livelihoods – but this only proves the need for sustainable leadership in a post-Covid-19 world ( Learn more ). 
This means leaders need to start thinking proactively about multiple aspects of the workplace. Remote work should be normalized – it is good for protecting against pandemics, and it also saves a great deal of fossil fuels by reducing the need for transportation. 
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Environmental Leadership More Important Than Ever Before
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As sustainability has grown in importance over the past several years, business and leadership strategies have changed to emphasize sustainable solutions. For example, in 2019 Deloitte conducted a survey ( https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/5065_Global-resources-study/DI_Global-resources-study.pdf ) that found that over 63% of the businesses they surveyed have formal resource and sustainability goals in place. 
Additionally, more than two-thirds said that they were hearing demands from customers ( Learn morepractices. 
Post-Covid-19 Demand for Sustainability 
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As business leaders and politicians step up to address economic, political, and other challenges in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, sustainability will be increasingly in demand and increasingly important. 
As UN Environment Program Director Inger Andersen wrote in an op-ed for the UN ( https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061082 ), leadership on environmental sustainability will be in increased demand. Andersen points out that human activity has already altered about 75% of the earth’s surface, and one of the impacts of this is an increased vulnerability to animal-borne diseases like Covid-19 – and climate change.
Time for Action on Sustainability 
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Business leaders and elected officials alike will need to set a course for sustainability going forward. As Andersen explains, it is time to take action on restoring the world’s forests, stopping deforestation, investing in protected areas and work to promote deforestation-free products. 
Andersen also explains that it is necessary to improve hygiene conditions in the legal wildlife trade, and to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. 
There is a profound link between planetary and human health, and this should affect how leaders around the world make decisions going forward after the pandemic. 
Andersen speaks of the need to “see how prudent management of nature can be part of this ‘different economy’ that must emerge, one where finance and actions fuel green jobs, green growth and a different way of life, because the health of people and the health of planet are one and the same, and both can thrive in equal measure.”
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Covid-19 and Strong Sustainability Policies
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What steps can business and political leaders ( Learn morepandemic? 
A good place to start is to observe that Covid-19 has had the effect of disrupting the way in which many businesses across the world operate. Remote workforces, shuttered offices, paused commutes – all of these are clear signs of a departure from a normal state of affairs. 
Covid-19 and the Environment 
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With a new way of operating, businesses have made significant steps toward slowing the spread of the virus. However, they have had another effect: they have reduced the impact of human civilization on the planet. 
All of the changes described above have cut down on the need for transportation, and thus on carbon emissions. Pollution levels and emissions have dropped significantly in many parts of the world, starting with China, where the outbreak initially began. 
Satellite data and data from other remote sensing devices has shown that in every area where Covid-19 has spread, especially in cities, emissions of carbon dioxide, other forms of air pollution, congestion, and other emissions have all but disappeared. 
Everywhere people have been asked to stay put and not venture out unless absolutely necessary, data show that pollution and transport-related emissions – about 14% of greenhouse gas emissions under normal, pre-Covid-19 conditions – all took a nosedive.
This is a respite, but it is not what is necessary to chart a new course for sustainability ( Learn morework. 
And as lockdown orders are rescinded by the various governments that have issued them, emissions are likely to climb once more – unless business and political leaders usher in sustainable change. 
Planning Sustainable Change 
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The solution, then, starts with business leaders asking key questions about what kind of climate action plans they want for their companies. They might start with a work-from-home policy where feasible and appropriate.
Going forward, they might seek to encourage green transportation options, including cycling and public transit, to help keep emissions from commuting down.
They could also conduct an environmental audit of their buildings, and make upgrades – roofing, windows, energy system – to help prevent waste of energy and, where possible, prioritize more sustainable sources of energy. 
For elected officials, the imperative will be to stabilize the world and the economy for the long term. This will mean realigning subsidy policies away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, and making investments in sustainable transit infrastructure and environmental remediation projects. 

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