COVID-19 has brought forth existential crisis and thus challenging corporate sustainability. With fast-paced Digitalization and technological disruptions, the companies were making sincere sustainability efforts already. The sudden arrival of the pandemic has threatened their very existence. The Future of Work is undergoing radical transformations, challenging corporate sustainability initiatives. The pandemic has ushered some headwinds and tailwinds for corporate stability. Coronavirus is now often seen as an antidote to the rampant torture incurred on the Nature and Climate of the planet Earth. Now that the human activities, the culprit behind the climatic problems, are limited, it is giving the Nature a time to heal.
The companies around the world are busy designing strategies to build resilience and sustainability for future uncertainties. The pandemic has imparted the important lessons to the corporate structures that anything can happen anytime. With the arrival of the year 2020, the concluding year of a decade, the businesses were gearing up for the tech disruptions and machination, but the pandemic came as a ‘shock’. No one was prepared for this. Businesses and traditional corporate structures have understood the importance of flexibility in operations and procedures. Before all this mess, the work from home or remote working was considered to be an option, a luxury. Employees could get the provision of working 3 to 4 days in a month, but not more than that. Work from home used to be something that is relaxing. Look at us now!
Remote working mandates have their own set of challenges. It is hard to segregate home and office under the same roof. However hard it is, we are all doing it. The companies are running, overcoming difficulties, but continuing to work with the employees outside the employers’ premises. The pandemic has given the companies a glimpse of the corporate sustainability revolution in future. With the employees confined to their homes, they are not relaxing, rather the workload and stress have increased many folds. Some organizations are following strict employee monitoring policies, keeping an eye on the employees. But, along with the rules and regulations, the organizations have to pay close attention to the mental health and well being of the employees.
Look outside. What do you find? Blue skies, no traffic congestions, no polluting emissions from the vehicles, no honks of the vehicles. What do these suggest? We can stay at home and continue with our work, without going out to the bars and pubs, without restaurants and multiplexes. We are compelled to organize Indian weddings with 50 guests and not 1000 who are busy judging the food menu. People are spending less and still lead our lives, with simplicity. Virtual meetings, teleconference, video conference, etc are going on in full swing, and the result is the images of clear skies that are captured by the floating satellites.
The dramatic decline of pollution, air, water, soil, noise, greenhouse gasses, global warming, and ozone layer depletion is giving respite to nature. The pandemic has been a wakeup call for a gamut of reasons. The corporate sustainability strategies are focussing the employees, customers and the supply chains. Starbuck’s has walked the extra mile and provided mental health coverage for its employees, Unilever has initiated early payments for its suppliers. The companies are becoming more aware than ever about the environmental, social and governmental (ESG) challenges. The pandemic has provided them with an opportunity to test run their initiatives for attaining corporate sustainability.
The companies need to adapt to the uncertain and unprecedented circumstances that may arise in future. The risks must be assessed accurately and steps must be taken accordingly. In spite of the tough times, many companies are lacking adaptability and flexibility in their approach. They are not abiding by government guidelines and professional policies. Due to the pandemic, millions have lost their jobs around the world, salary cuts and layoffs have increased exponentially. The governments in many nations, including India, have urged the companies not to sack employees. The pandemic has shed some light on corporate responsibilities and professional policies. For example, a CEO of a company is having promotions and a prominent raise, and thousands of employees are being laid off.
Sustainability has become a dire necessity now, and hence it has taken the shape of a business. “Sustainability is good business, UN’s Tripathi says. Take the example of Ambuja Cement, which despite being a water-intensive business, has been water positive for six or seven years, giving back more than it consumes in the areas where its plants operate. Ambuja Cement says it counts on the support of local villages for its operations, lowering the risks of unrest from local communities. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it reached out to provide health kits (2 lakh masks), spread awareness and food security (ration kits for 60,000 families), touching 6 lakh people living near their plants.” Neeraj Akhoury, MD and CEO, of Ambuja Cement, opines that “Every year, we assess our negative and positive social and environmental value, along with financial performance to understand how they impact the company’s future.”
To strengthen corporate sustainability, the organizations of various sizes and industries have chalked out a certain plan of actions, as mentioned below.
Holistic Approach To Sustainability
The companies are incorporating newer methods and procedures to achieve sustainability and maintain relevance in the long run. While doing so, the corporate houses must not be oblivious of the fact that the pandemic has ruined havoc in every level of the existence, and not just any particular company. So, the companies must extend helping hand and work for the greater good. Like the example of the Ambuja Cement, they are making meaningful contributions in tough times, much concerned about the greater good. Many companies are facilitating medical production supplies, crisis-critical activities, community-support. We all know about the giant in the Cosmetic sector, L’Oreal. The company has started manufacturing hand sanitizers as the critical situation demands so.
Employee Centric Operations
Many companies, aware of the risks of remote working, have taken certain steps for their employees. Increasing paid sick leaves, expanding the health coverage, virtual training sessions, being more considerate, as the employees are working in their home environment that may not have the vibe of a corporate office. The employers must have huge reserves of trust towards the employees. Employee monitoring to some extent is justifiable. But, keeping a virtual eye open for 24*7 is not a rational step.
Laying off is certainly not the only option left, instead of sacking the employees, the companies can take alternative steps like cutting executive salaries and bonuses. “Retailer Target has temporarily increased worker wages by $2 an hour, offered paid leave for any team member at increased risk of contracting the virus and contributed to a fund to support affected employees. Multinational energy company Enel created an insurance policy for its global workforce of more than 68,000 to protect them in the event they fall sick with the virus.”
Adaptive & Flexible Approach To Sustainability
Businesses are encountering disruptions due to the sudden pandemic outbreak. The companies have realized the importance of adaptability and flexibility. A collaborative response is crucial to sustaining any uncertainties, like the present one. The importance of resilience is NOW, more than ever. The companies are designing cost-effective plans and procedures. They are looking forward to retaining the core business operations and outsource the secondary ones. This way, they can embark on efficient cost management. Redesigning packaging and outsourcing manufacturing can reduce costs. Many companies are preferring on-demand basis onboarding, instead of permanent staffing. The part-time employable resources are being onboarded as per the project requirements, thus controlling the overhead costs. The financial crunch is one of the inevitable consequences faced by businesses, all over the world. So, cost control becomes the most essential step to achieve corporate sustainability.
Cybersecurity Threats To Sustainability
The remote workers are setting the offices at home, thus vulnerable to a certain security breach. Using a strong VPN, creating firewalls, using strong updated anti-virus, avoiding reusing of passwords, and other steps can help in averting the security. Increasing digital dependence has given the chances for hackers to gain unauthorized access into the system. There are certain organizational measures that can be taken, for example, providing the official devices to the employees at home, so that they don’t need to use the personal devices.
The applications and software used by the employees must be regularly updated. So the feature of the regular automatic updates must be turned on. Specialized IT teams must be set to protect the business network. Employee awareness is crucial. Most of the employees are not aware of the nitty-gritty of the security attacks. Using the official devices for professional duties is a must. Checking the official mails at the end of the day using the phone or the personal device is strictly prohibited. A security breach can be a potential obstacle in the road of achieving sustainability.
The companies are investing all the available resources for achieving corporate sustainability. This is not an easy task. ‘How to do it’ is best known by the experts. If you want to cut the operational costs, then you can find the answers to your questions from an expert, who have relevant experience in this field. We, at Vedak, have an exclusive of pre-vetted industry experts and professionals hailing from 20+ industries. They can help you to solve your queries.
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