By Proxima

08 Jun 2020

Sustainability was already becoming a top agenda item for the public sector. Proxima argues that it's now probably going to be more important than ever

COVID-19 is redefining how the world goes around. The cost is unprecedented and will have a long-lasting effect on the economy and infrastructure of governments, businesses, and communities across the world. Navigating safely through this period is now the number one agenda item for all and rightly so. Sustainability, however, still has its place on the agenda, and will likely be one of the few items that still exist in the new world.   
What we are seeing through the COVID-19 crisis is a potential change for good. Businesses are coming together to help the world navigate through this global challenge. Whether it be Mercedes F1, Dyson and Babcock transcending industries to develop and produce ventilators, or BrewDog and various others supporting the manufacturing and distribution of hand sanitiser – we’re seeing incredible forces of positive change.
But let's not dance around the topic – each of these firms will likely be profiting from their acts of good, and why not? Babcock's shares are up, Dyson has a 10,000-unit order from the UK government, and the big four supermarkets are seeing increased sales. But why has it taken a global disaster to recognise this opportunity? Yes, people will say they are just exploiting the situation, but doing good is doing good, and if you can do well off the back of it it’s a win-win for all. 
So the need to create economic value in a way that also creates value for society is a must in the current conditions – here's how you can start…
1. Innovation will unlock new value 
The new world needs innovators, and sustainable change will be a critical tool for survival, not just during the pandemic. As public sector organisations revamp their operations, this will be critical as well. Distinguishing yourself as a leader in saturated markets while overcoming sustainability challenges can provide untapped value opportunities. 
2. Create a visual supply chain
In today's global networks, supply chains pose risks for any organisation. Once you get past your tier 1 suppliers, you often have little understanding of who is doing what and it's particularly difficult to trace. As a result, it is typically in tier 2 and below where the most unethical practices are uncovered. 
Ensuring that your supply chain is transparent is not just good practice. Still, in these times of uncertainty, it will shield you from any unwanted regulatory fines, negative press or any other surprise that may harm business any more than it has been already. 
3. Embrace technology to support your goals 
The digitally-enabled transparency of the world today has provided consumers with more data than ever before, and deeper insights into what's ethical or unethical about your business. Technology has become the wind in sustainability's sails for both the consumer and organisations.
It is paving the way forward for how we engage and learn about ethical dilemmas and is forcing decisions which can mitigate risk and drive value. From utilising digital tools to audit supply chains, to tracking emission footprints through energy management suites and AI which can propel efficiencies – there's a tool to support your sustainable objectives. 
4. Utilise multi-level risk assessments
Understanding risks will help you understand where you're likely to be exposed, and then you can do something about it. This will enable you to focus on ensuring that the supply base adheres to the environmental and sustainable standards expected. Specific tailored risk-mapping approaches include:
a.    Country-level risk assessment 
b.    Business entity assessment 
c.    Factory-level assessments 
d.    Crisis protocol
e.    Grievance mechanism
Additionally, front-end supplier risk management can alleviate risk before a sourcing process, or a supplier relationship starts. Vendor screening and vendor assessments help improve compliance from suppliers, and if repeated periodically throughout the lifetime of the supplier relationship ensures values are maintained at all times. 
5. Make the most of existing initiatives
Ensuring your organisation is aligned with the latest and most innovative initiatives to support sustainability and the green economy. As mentioned above, this not only limits the exposure to certain risks but provides a mechanism for impact measurement and reporting. Key initiatives include:
a.    Fair Factories Clearinghouse 
b.    Prompt Payment Code 
c.    Living Wage Foundation 
d.    UN Sustainable Development Goals 
e.    ISO 20400
6. Bigger isn't always better
Collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises have the potential to offer greater responsiveness and value as the economy restarts. Promoting local collaboration and innovation throughout your supply chain and the UK as a whole benefit the economy and broader industry ecosystem.
Social enterprises promote economic equality across the UK, which will be desperately needed in the coming months. These organisations operate under the primary premise of 'business for good', and there are lots of services on offer, ranging from FM to IT and HR. 
It's contagious: once your end-users see that you and your third parties are doing the right thing, they are more likely to embrace your services and products. Organisations waste far too much valuable resource being prisoners of their own ethical dilemmas which may not result in long-term good. Better to make money and provide services which aren't at the expense of others. 


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