Foresight In The Time Of Covid-19 – How Next?

In April of 2020, we started to think about some potential effects of Covid-19. What we missed was an understanding of how seismic the changes will be.

Many people still seem to think that when the Covid-19 pandemic is ‘over’, everything will go back to ‘normal’. But we, as many others, think that this not possible – things have already changed, and we have a new baseline. Further, since April, WHO has predicted that Covid-19 will become endemic and that it is small beer compared to what may follow– and the next “pandemic disease X” may be sooner than we think.

Are there any signs that somebody is thinking about how to improve life on our unique planet? While everyone differs about what future they want, one thing is certain: it is not going to be what we had before Covid-19. What frameworks do we have for discussing, evaluating and navigating towards our preferred futures?

Here are four frameworks within this new viewpoint.

1) Voluntary Partnerships; Business, organisations like the CBI and labour organisation such as the TUC both argue that the time is right for a “Good Business Charter” to encourage responsible capitalism and publicly acknowledge those companies who exhibit such behaviour.

The Good Business Charter is a simple accreditation which organisations in the UK can sign up to in recognition of responsible business practices.

It measures behaviour over 10 components: real living wage, fairer hours and contracts, employee well-being, employee representation, diversity and inclusion, environmental responsibility, paying fair tax, commitment to customers, ethical sourcing, and prompt payment. A company must meet all 10 commitments to receive GBC accreditation, which is open to private sector, public sector and charity organisations of all sizes.

2) Systemic Approaches; Doughnut Economics started as a book by Oxford economist Kate Raworth. She identifies seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray and sets out a roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet. En route, she deconstructs the character of ‘rational economic man’ and explains what really makes us tick.

The Doughnut Economics Action Lab is about turning Doughnut Economics from a radical idea into transformative action. It has defined a generative enterprise producing benefits, which will differ from an extractive enterprise in five ways: purpose, networks, governance, ownership, and finance.

3) Evangelism; B Corpsbelieve that society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and non-profits alone. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose.

Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

“B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good. The values and aspirations of the B Corp community are embedded in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.” (from the web site)

4) Pole Stars; A useful framework, used by an increasing number of organisations , is the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were establishedin 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. The 17 goals cover social aspects such as hunger, health and education; economic aspects such as poverty, employment and development; and environmental aspects including water, biodiversity and climate change.

The frameworks of the post-World War II era have largely focused on the drive to bring people out of poverty. We’re all aware that a side effects of this drive, which allied with globalisation and technology developments, has meant that we have ended up with the peculiar situation that 1% of the population have half of global wealth.

The new frameworks that are emerging today are different from those of the previous generation in that they integrate the needs of the planet and the needs of people. They also take into account evidence which shows that financial inequality is correlated with health and social problems.

We welcome discussion with readers who are aware of other or better frameworks!

Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland, January 2021

First published on 26 January on Long Finance Pamphleteers: https://www.longfinance.net/news/pamphleteers/foresight-in-the-time-of-covid-19-how-next/

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