#BuildingBackBetter – but how do we contribute?

3rd July 2020

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Katherine Davis

Absent from our collective narrative in January, the concept of 'Building Back Better' (BBB) after COVID-19 has well and truly arrived.

An increasingly accepted vision, BBB has attracted support from prime minister Boris Johnson to Prince Charles and the World Economic Forum's 'Great Reset Project'. Historic quotes are everywhere, and apparently we must 'never let a crisis go to waste'. Where do we, as professionals, fit in?

In April we all picked up on the theme, with some even talking of a possible 'Bretton Woods moment'. Do we have world leaders who could seize the moment and rebuild our global economic system? By the time this is published, we may know the answer.

Whatever our political leaders do, there will need to be an economic reboot, with businesses evolving and adapting. As a profession, we have the knowledge and at least some of the tools to champion a socially just and green economic resurgence. IEMA has made a start; we have vacated our Lincoln headquarters, and the team is embracing the challenge of running a 15,000-plus membership body from our homes.

In May we held our first BBB webinar, and Mike Barry, former M&S director of sustainable business, ran through his personal perspectives for change. Pre-COVID-19, Mike had already identified that a new business cycle (2020-30) is rapidly emerging – one that many incumbent businesses will struggle tosurvive in. Running through a vision of critical change elements, Mike turned his attention to our role as professionals. Away from our own specialisms, we all need to know how business itself ticks, to build our networks, collaborate, listen, mentor and be mentored.

It was heartening to see a clear synergy between these sustainability skills and IEMA's own professional standards. However, the challenge continues, and additional perspective is offered by Phil Cumming, FIEMA, global head of sustainability at Walgreens Boots Alliance – Global Brands: “Sustainable business challenges are now deeply complex and require a systemic mindset, beyond just an environmental framing. Now more than ever, it's imperative that our actions must take into account social and economic dynamics if they are to succeed. Sustainability is fast becoming a cultural shift that will affect us all in the coming years. As a profession, we can help continue the conversation and positive impact by ensuring our sustainability goals remain intact“.

Mike Barry was joined by IEMA Fellows Sarah Handley, Dan Hamza-Goodacre and Nick Blyth.Their webinar (22 May) can be viewed at 'Watch Again' on iema.netWatch out for more sessions under the #BuildingBackBetter theme.

Picture credit: Shutterstock


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