In recent past, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Building Back Better strategy to reduce risks posed by future disasters to vulnerable communities undergoing post-disaster recovery. The concept gained significance in the wake of novel coronavirus crisis since 2020, once all of us across the world were partly or completely confined to our homes.
Global leaders took note of the rising vulnerabilities to their nations and their economies posed by the pandemic. A pandemic that we are coming to realize is beyond a health crisis, but a social and economic one as well.
Daily wage laborers have been hardest hit with the lockdowns and curfews. Loss of livelihood extended to many enterprises whose business models could not be improvised in the new scenario. After showing some signs of recovery in March this year, the second wave again made the situation worse. As per a recent LinkedIn survey, Gen Z (employees below 25 years) are feeling most at risk in the job market. Expenditure on health and minimum employment claims have been at an all-time high.
But, while there is sufficient cause for a grim present, there are also stories of people who have risen to the occasion, healing the world in its true sense. Healthcare, essential services, NGOs workers are being reverberated for serving humanity in times of extreme crisis. Organizations are taking extra effort in ensuring mental health and positive work environment even as their workforce operates from home. Governments are considering free vaccination to the masses.
And so, as Governments, businesses and civil society have sprung into action, what emerges is that the world is coming together and working towards a common cause. This leads us to believe that partnerships are the key to success in the post COVID world, more than ever before.
Collaboration for a better Economy
A case in point is the European Union. Fewer jobs have been lost in the EU than in the U.S. during the COVID-19 downturn. This is despite the facts that EU is home to about 100 million more people and the U.S. accounted for the highest expenditure to help its workers during the COVID crises. While EU deployed significant employment retention schemes, the U.S. focused on stimulus checks and unemployment compensation in lieu of job retention.
One of the important focus areas was to keep the small and medium size businesses alive. Policy interventions, loan moratoriums and providing them with a level playing field to compete with the economies of scale enjoyed by large enterprises could help them survive. It enabled workers to retain their jobs thereby a steady, even though reduced income.
Reduced income affects demand, that further impacts manufacturers and suppliers, their upstream and downstream supply chains claiming jobs. This is a vicious cycle. As per an OECD report on COVID-19’s impact on economic activity is an estimated reduction between 20-25% of GDPs in many major economies. Therefore, such collaborations between the public and private sector would be important for minimizing impact on global GDP.
Collaboration for a better Society
Post the COVID-19 induced lockdown, Germany introduced a new claim for compensation for parents, with children up to 12 years, that were not able to work due to closures of childcare and schools. The amount compensated by the employer could be further claimed from the respective authority in the federal state. Measures such as these enable societies to function smoothly despite disruptions due to remote working.
Private Sector can play a role by avoiding retrenchments, retaining talent, instituting robust inclusion as well as health and safety policies. Prolonged physical distancing and the associated social isolation can pose a threat to the mental well-being of employees. Keeping employees engaged by increasing communication, offering enhanced insurance coverage, access to self-help facilities could keep them motivated.
Companies’ community development funds which in some countries like India can be met through mandatory CSR, could be diverted to provide relief to the most vulnerable – supplying rations and essential items, upskilling the marginalized to enable them start something on their own or pick another job, routing funds by investing in start-ups supporting social and environmental causes. Thus, partnerships between the public, private and NGOs sector could catalyze speedy socio-economic recovery.
Collaboration for a better Planet
COVID-19 made us realize how connected we all are and that we share this single planet. Current global greenhouse gas emissions are estimated at approximately 51 billion tons. Human population is at 7.7 billion today and will reach the 9 billion mark by 2050. Unless decisive collective action is taken to invest more in renewables sources of energy, reduce fossil fuel consumption, regulate agriculture and industries that cause forest and wildlife depletion the overall global warming would only increase.
Leaders at the G7 Summit held in June this year agreed to a set of concrete actions to accelerate the global transition away from coal generation as part of efforts to combat the climate crisis. More commitment needs to be demonstrated in action especially by wealthier nations to meet ambitious targets of limiting rising temperatures and bring countries in their developing stage up to speed.
Government intervention through subsidies and low interest loans are necessary to make markets competitive for alternate fuels, low emissions manufacturing processes, as well as restriction of single use plastic usage. Technology could be a further boon in reaching masses for awareness and building capacities, and this can be achieved by bridging the digital divide.
Talking about the COVID impact on the economies, Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in one of his statements said that, “Our analysis further underpins the need for sharper action to absorb the shock, and a more coordinated response by governments to maintain a lifeline to people, and a private sector that will emerge in a very fragile state when the health crisis is past.”
SDG17 or ‘Partnership for Goals’ aims to strengthen global partnership for sustainable development. As things start coming back to normalcy and the containment measures are lifted, the focus needs to shift back to the need of public policy and financing in sustainable development.
International cooperation with special attention to developing countries, access to technology, innovation, science, and education will be required with continued dialogue and trade agreements between nations thereby facilitating the shift from response to recovery. Efforts would have to multiply radically to ensure humanity’s readiness for challenges that lie ahead – natural or man-made. This would set the stage for an eco-system of collective action towards sustainability – of profits, people and planet.
(The given article is attributed to Shipra Sharma, Head- CSR, L&T Infotech (LTI) (Business World)
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