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Bouncing forward: why companies need to be more compassionate post-Covid

Brands serious about survival will require a 'social licence' to operate, says Jonathon Porritt, co-founder of Forum for the Future

Brands serious about survival will require a 'social licence' to operate, says Jonathon Porritt, co-founder of Forum for the Future

The moment is now for all companies to understand the non-negotiable imperatives that they face. Any company that’s serious about thriving in this new world has to have a ‘social license’ to operate; people have to feel it’s a good thing for that company to be active in our midst.

In the post-Covid world, companies have a fantastic opportunity to do more on the environment front. Big global companies, I think, will never go back to flying in the way they used to; they’ve realised you can achieve a massive amount digitally through new platforms.

UK-based companies also now have opportunities to reduce the degree to which people have to commute to get to work. [They can] work with their employees to reduce the wear and tear of travelling every day. Of course, not everybody can work from home. But for employers, being more flexible and finding the right balance is going to be crucial [as] that will have a dramatic impact on travel related costs, emissions and pollution.

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Biodiversity is not really on the corporate agenda at the moment. We have to get companies to commit now to having their own biodiversity action plans – that’s the ask I would make of every company, big or small. I know this is a tough time to be making additional asks of companies because a lot are going to be hard pressed to find ways of thriving again, but we still have to attend to these basics, which I think is going to be critical.

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One thing the crisis has taught us is that we have to care more for those that we live close to and work with. We need to have a compassionate and caring approach to each other. For me, companies are going to be expected to think much more about their responsibilities to employees, suppliers, business partners, wider stakeholders. For instance, we’ve got to think about ways we can ensure living incomes for all employees, both those permanently on payroll and those coming in to provide an outsourced service.

Any company that’s serious about thriving in this new world has to have a 'social license' to operate

Businesses have to rethink what social responsibility actually means. There should be a new understanding of the role business should play in making places more healthy, more resilient, more compassionate, more inclusive.

Expectations are going to be high. People are going to want to see companies understand the nature of this shock and understand that they need to be committed to building back better in a different, more responsible, kinder way. We don’t hear that notion of kindness and compassion enough and we just have to be putting that out there as a really critical part of the whole social responsibility side of things.

Hope in Hell: A Decade to Confront the Climate Emergency by Jonathon Porritt is out now (£16.99, Simon & Schuster)

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Positive predictions for the new normal

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