Think back to the last time you joined a new team, department or organization. Now think back to how long it took before hearing the words, “Well, we’ve always done it this way”. My guess would be days, if not hours.
While tried and true experience plays a critical role in society; we somehow found ourselves kicking off a new decade in a monotonous race; all jointly locked onto the same racetrack. There was never a moment to spare, with everyone’s head down (possibly below ground level). We had all become so busy running sprints, that we didn’t even realize that we had engaged in high-speed marathons.
And then, the Great Pause.
Over the past few months, the pandemic has shifted the Western paradigm. Planes grounded, events canceled, and a feeling of limbo has filled homes and boardrooms alike.
During this period, we have heard countless people, politicians and pundits express a strong desire to get back to life pre-COVID. However, I would argue that, after the Great Pause, we should be focused not on going back to normal, but on moving forward to a new, more sustainable reality. COVID-19 ripped open and exposed a deep wound based on resource inequality. So what better time than now for our community, more tightly interconnected than ever, to pull together to rebuild our lives in a way that respects the Triple Bottom Line, a framework built across three pillars: the planet (environmental), people (social), and profit (economical).
Environmentally, this pandemic has opened our eyes to the impact of ecological degradation on human health. As we continue to encroach on green spaces and decrease biodiversity, we increase transmission opportunities and risks of zoonotic pandemics. Political and corporate leaders alike need to rethink the design of our cities, systems and operations. From green belts to regenerative agriculture and from energy efficiency innovations to renewables, there are so many opportunities for us to do better. It will, of course, require us to disengage from “business as usual” and to work with environmental and scientific communities as part of our planning and deployment strategies. As leaders, we need to move towards making the biggest impact with the smallest footprint.
Socially, the past few months have shown us just how interconnected we really are. Never have we so strongly experienced the ripple effects of our global community while simultaneously feeling so united with our local economy. Suddenly, just-in-time methodology doled out to the cheapest supplier is being questioned. Online shopping with the promise of next day delivery is losing its sheen. With the Great Pause, we have had the time to ask ourselves the question: “What is the impact of my dollar on my economy?”
On an individual level, we are increasingly turning to and supporting our local merchants and producers. As companies, we now must ask ourselves serious questions about reshoring and leveraging our own resources in more strategic fashions. While we face this economically uncertain time, we have a unique opportunity to decide just how we want to rebuild our communities closest to home.
Economically, beyond the above-mentioned refueling of our local businesses, companies are going to have to proactively evolve with society’s moral compass. With the Great Pause has come an increasingly documented shift in employee and customer loyalty. No longer are we tied to people (employers) or places (companies) but the workforce is now looking to align with meaningful missions and visions. Organizations, from non-profits to publicly traded companies, will have to double down on a clear, meaningful direction in order to attract and retain talent and customers alike. Post-Pause, we can meet this demand not by uniquely focusing our efforts on profit, but by building up, on equal footing, the people, and planet pillars.
Staying in the current limbo state of the Great Pause is, without a doubt, not good for anyone. However, I would argue that going back to normal would truly only benefit a select few. Instead, may we move forward, and take on a holistic, systems thinking approach. As we are about to embark on the second half of this unforgettable year, let us replace the notion of “2020 happening to us” with the aspiration of “2020 happening for us”; making us stronger economically, socially, and environmentally.
Lauren Scott leads the global marketing efforts for a business in the building automation and energy management sector. She volunteers her time as President of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation’s Board of Directors. Lauren lives in Ville-Emard in Montreal's Sud-Ouest borough.
— Lauren Scott