One small beacon of light that’s emerged out of the darkness of this global COVID-19 pandemic is the impact “lockdown” has had on pollution. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused industrial activity to shut down and cancelled flights and other journeys, slashing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution around the world,” writes the World Economic Forum. “If there is something positive to take from this terrible crisis, it could be that it’s offered a taste of the air we might breathe in a low-carbon future.” That’s nothing to sneeze at, so to speak, considering upwards of 3 million people die every year from ailments caused by air pollution.1
Some argue, nevertheless, the pandemic’s effect on the environment is “smaller than you might think” and if real change is to be affected, it’s going to take conscious and deliberate rethinking of how we live and do business. Some of that rethinking may happen organically, according to climate scientist Kevin Gurney, who recently spoke to Wired about what it might take for the changes wrought by the pandemic to become both significant and permanent.2 For example, there’s a strong likelihood now that the “seal” has been broken on remote work, going forward, businesses everywhere will more readily accept it. For more on why the remote work revolution wrought by COVID-19 may be here to stay, check out our Special Edition of PluggedIN, COVID-19: A Tipping Point For Remote Work.
Time will tell how that will shake out. At the moment, however, we have the benefit of “2020 hindsight” with regard to the evolution of the sustainability movement. As it happens, today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day--the annual global event demonstrating support for the environment.
Back in Earth Day’s early days, “environmental sustainability” had not yet been coined as a phrase -- and wouldn’t be for another 17 years3. Today, it’s become ubiquitous as a way of referring to efforts to preserve the planet and its precious natural resources for future generations. In fact, at this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking of environmental sustainability as nothing more than a politically correct buzzword -- something you care about because, well, how can you not? But when you dig a bit deeper, you’re likely to realize concerns about sustainability arise for two very authentic reasons:
- Humanity depends upon our planet’s natural resources for survival.
- Our planet’s natural resources are limited.
To quote Columbia University’s Earth Institute director and renowned sustainability expert, Jeffrey D. Sachs, “For a species that depends on the beneficence of nature, or on what the scientists call ‘environmental services,’ we are doing a poor job of protecting the physical basis of our very survival!”4 Fortunately, this isn’t exactly “news,” but as we grow increasingly aware of it, the question becomes not whether it is something we need to address, but rather how we will address it in a way that does the most good both for the planet, ourselves, and future generations. In business, that’s where the notion of “corporate sustainability” comes in.
The pursuit of corporate sustainability is the pursuit by a business of environmental sustainability in parallel with the pursuit of maximizing returns and long-term stakeholder value. Far from being a burden, corporate sustainability is a business opportunity, as the Inter-American Development Bank puts it.5 Practicing corporate sustainability furthers the goals of both positioning and profitability. But corporate sustainability is not just about the environment, per se. With optimal utilization of limited resources as a gestalt, corporate sustainability seeks to address sustainability at three fundamental levels (also known as the “3 P’s” of Sustainability):
In fact, according to the Harvard University School of Public Health, companies that invest in the health and well-being of their communities (i.e., people), the environment (i.e., planet), and their stakeholders (i.e., profits), can “increase long-term profitability, reduce costs, and enhance their reputation”.6
With business as competitive as it is today, bringing sustainability into one’s business model only makes good business sense. Sustainability happens to be at the core of Exela’s business model in that every solution we offer is aimed at managing and conserving resources more efficiently. accelerate the business transformation of our customers using innovative strategies that create the most value using the least resources. In other words, corporate sustainability at Exela begins with the services and solutions we provide to our 4,000+ customers, which are comprised of businesses of every size, in every industry, all across the globe.
Here are just a few examples of how Exela’s services and solutions can help reduce paper use in the name of preserving our planet’s forests.