How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact sustainability efforts?
Sustainable Business
Michael Lenox and Tate Moeller discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact sustainability policy, technology, and strategy.
 
Tate Moeller (00:10):
The current pandemic is reducing carbon emissions globally and has also helped reduce pollution at least for the time being. Apart from those positives, it’s also positioned us well for an opportunity to really capitalize on implementing some infrastructure policy that can stimulate sustainable growth. Can you talk a little bit about the opportunity available right now and what is needed in order to capitalize on it?
 
Michael Lenox (00:40):
Carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions are very tied to economic output. As we’ve shut the economy down that obviously has lessened emissions quite a bit, and therefore, we’re really on track for kind of having lowest emissions in quite some time in 2020. Now, obviously there’s a downside to that given what’s happened to the economy and what’s going on with the pandemic, but it is highlighted to a number of people just what happens when we do that – the air is cleaner, the water is cleaner. I think it is raising some awareness. I would observe is when we hit these types of moments that we had in 2008 and has we have now, and there is large federal stimulus money is being spent. There are choices being made about what industries to support, what, what businesses are viewed as required and necessary to keep going and propped up. And those are opportunities to think about these types of transitions. What are the businesses of the future? What are the ones that we need to be really be supporting? How could they actually create opportunities for us to lead the technologies of the future. And so when I think about the current moment, the opportunities for infrastructure, investment, especially in electrical generation around smart grid and renewables, these are paramount right now, and an incredible opportunity if we choose to seize them. Unfortunately what often becomes the case, is we often try to revive what I would say are dying industries. Imagine the folly of trying to prop up Blockbuster Video in the face of Netflix and the change to streaming technology. Yet, there are times where we actually seem to behave that way, supporting old industries, not thinking about what is new and what are going to be the future opportunities.
 
Lenox is the Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean, and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
 
Moeller is the Director of Sustainability Solutions at Minneapolis-based 2DegreesCooler™.
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