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Sustainability has a solid record as a paradigm of resilience and growth

Ursula Mathar, the BMW Group's Vice President for Sustainability explores how the COVID-19 pandemic's “crisis mode” is providing impetus for change.

This blog is republished from the COVID-19 Sustainability Compass

The coronavirus crisis has had a global impact on economic and social life. Supply chains have been disrupted, travel has been cancelled, life has slowed down. It is clear, however, that solutions are being developed in the economy at speed. econsense believes that this crisis doesn’t have to be a breaking point, but an opportunity for sustainability – as long as we take the following three points into account:

Firstly, sustainability has long since ceased to be a fair-weather project, it is the key to the future viability and resilience of business models. Many businesses had already recognised this and actively implemented it before the coronavirus.

Secondly, the current “crisis mode” is providing impetus for change which we must use. It is an opportunity for a change of direction in organisations, businesses and the world of politics, which wouldn’t happen so quickly and thoroughly in “normal mode”. The economy has a key role to play. Businesses are rapidly aligning their core activities to the emergency requirements and converting entire production lines to supply much-needed protective clothing and disinfectants. With their global networks, they are securing supplies and organising support. In our crisis mode, creative thinking is underway, courageous action is being taken, and rapid decisions are being made. It is necessary to harness our energy to maintain our momentum.

Thirdly, sustainability has a solid record as a paradigm of resilience and growth – before, during and after the coronavirus crisis. Climate protection must be the focus of the efforts, although economic and social issues are inseparably associated with effective climate protection. Ambitious approaches to innovation and investment exist in sustainable solutions and processes. When resources are limited, and under ongoing international competitive pressure, driving this forwards with commitment, even in times of crisis, takes perseverance.

Regarding the public stabilisation and reconstruction measures after the coronavirus, at the domestic, European and international levels, it is essential that these measures are designed so that the major investments effectively restore output while achieving the sustainability goals at the same time. There must be no conflict between reconstruction and sustainability. When the crisis is over, a sustainable economy will be all the more important. As long as it is configured in a way that makes sense in terms of content and is pragmatic in its implementation of a supportive financial system, the EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance will have a key influence on this steering effect.

In this context, digitalisation will also play a key role. Its potential is particularly evident now, in the decentralised production of protective equipment using 3D printers, for instance, or the use of platform-based applications. The coronavirus has made the sense of openness to this topic greater than ever before. This is an opportunity to leverage the competitiveness of the EU through digitalisation that uses smart approaches – so that the impact of the policy measures is as sustainable as possible.

If we succeed in taking our self-confidence, creativity and courage from the current situation with us into the post-coronavirus era, we will be able to resolve and rise to the challenges in the area of sustainability even more decisively.

Ursula Mathar is the BMW Group Vice President Sustainability. She is responsible for the companies’ sustainability strategy and steering of sustainability management. Ursula Mathar is also chair of the executive board of the German association econsense – Forum for Sustainable Development of German Business. She holds a business degree and a pharmacist license. Before joining the BMW Group in 2012, she worked for Bayer AG in marketing and sustainability functions.

The Corona Sustainability Compass blog is a joint publication by the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA), the scientific network Future Earth, the International Science Council (ISC) and Foundation 2° – German Businesses for Climate Protection.
The CSC blog forms the umbrella, under which authors (including leading scientists, business decision-makers and politicians) present their visions and images of a sustainable future. We are looking for new, future-oriented strategies, that might have been unimaginable yesterday, but which are now made possible by the corona crisis.

Photo by Talha Atif on Unsplash

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