Perhaps you will find yourself here again: If you pick up the phone these days and ask a business partner how he or she is doing at the moment, whether everything is going well again, the answer comes back astonishingly often: “Yes, there is really a lot to do! ”. It seems like a breath of fresh air is blowing through the business world. This renewed hustle and bustle around us triggers a feeling – that despite the forecast global economic crisis and the increasing number of corona cases, it is somehow going on, that “everything will be fine”.
And yet this way of looking at things, which negates our existential desire to return to normality as we know it and to which we as a society have linked our prosperity, leaves so many and so many things out. Think of all those who exclude this game of thought – for example people who lost their jobs during the crisis. Their number could just reach three million this year.
We know that people with low social status are more affected by health consequences and that social inequality is exacerbated by the closure of schools. For all the signs of solidarity sent out during the first few months of the pandemic, these are sad facts. And we haven’t even looked at the global level. This year alone, 86 million additional children could fall into poverty. The number of starving people could even double.
The environment has too little time to regenerate
It’s a gloomy picture that quickly tarnishes the feeling of “everything will be fine”. Because we actually know that those much-proclaimed losers of the pandemic are only the tip of an iceberg whose enormous dimensions have actually not been swimming in shallows for a long time. While the reasons are manifold, it is always the one big mistake: We give natural capital and environmental resources a far too subordinate role in global economic considerations. The short pan, when the smog was forced to leave the cities due to the lockdown, did not last long.
We are just proving again that we are not ready to give the environment time to regenerate – and neither ourselves nor the economy. The view that the pursuit of exponential growth is the only everlasting guardrail is too deeply entrenched. It no longer holds. Our inability to solve social and ecological problems leads to a lack of trust in politics and the economy and divides people in many places. The necessary investments and solutions are not being made and it has long been enough to put responsibility in the hands of the social sector. While a holistic approach is generally required, there are not enough pragmatic means available to solve all problems.
We therefore have to ask ourselves where these resources for scaling solutions are generated and who is involved. In fact, most of it is created by companies when they add value. They do this out of the need to generate profits, but states can use their taxes to support social causes – and at the latest through public pressure, companies themselves often invest a part in CSR measures. So adding value is the “magic formula”: If we make a profit, we can create resources to make the world a better place. We can scale. Now we “only” have to choose it. And that’s the big shift we have to make.
Current developments show that these investments are not only in line with ecological and social efforts, but can also boost monetary value creation. Social enterprises prove that profit can be made by solving social problems. Decision-makers from large companies who distinguish themselves through sustainable directional decisions receive positive feedback from the public. According to studies, companies that act particularly sustainably are already generating significantly higher gross margins and can achieve a higher rating than competitors without a CSR focus. And meeting the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda is estimated to open up $ 12 trillion in market opportunities.
An opportunity that we can use more easily than ever in the current situation. It provides a new kind of growth drive that goes beyond mere financial growth. Creates the incentive to improve our global quality of life and health, to solve social problems and the existence of a planet that will last for many generations. The aftershocks and rebounds of the global pandemic are just giving us an idea of what uncertainty means. We notice how comfortable we were. It is time to accept the uncomfortability of this new attitude towards life and to make something good and something big out of it, not least for the sake of ourselves and our economy.
Sebastian Stricker is the founder and CEO of Share. Philip-Nicolas Schaaf is Head of Category Management at Deutsche Bahn