Are Businesses, Communities, and Sustainability Headed in the Same Direction?

For all of us, individually and as employees of organizations, this year has been stressful, chaotic, and confusing. The COVID-19 crisis came upon us so quickly at the start of 2020 and has not yet left, leaving behind a trail of new requirements and compliances to deal with in our personal lifestyles and workforce employment. Behavior changes have rapidly taken place and new leadership styles are beginning to replace older ones. Most everyone agrees that we will probably never return to what remember in the past as “normal.” A question: is that a good or bad thing for business?

In retrospect, only a small percentage of businesses were actually prepared for COVID-x 19, although many believe that it was predictable. Early on, posted in a March 3rd, 2020 article that only 30% of businesses surveyed were prepared for COVID-19 and that 55% of businesses were only somewhat prepared. Furthermore, 44% of businesses reported that infectious diseases were not part of their crisis communications. Additionally, 53% of businesses felt that COVID-19 would have a moderate to major impact on their business in their future. However, on July 23, 2020 posted an article that indicated 54% of future ready businesses surveyed had a fully prepared plan of action to deal with COVID-19 and that 30% of future ready businesses saw a rise in profits after the shutdown!

In hindsight, why then are future ready businesses prepared to deal with unforeseen and significant change in a better way? Future ready businesses are more adaptable to dynamic market conditions, are open to cutting edge technologies, and have established clear transformational goals. According to, these companies also have set in place:

  • Business resiliency planning
  • Sustainability as a guiding principle or core value
  • Adaptability to changing social and customer attitudes and behaviors
  • Data analytic best practices that address new business challenges and create opportunities
  • Recruitment, nurturing, and training of organizational development and talent

So why is business resiliency planning so important? In the past businesses usually spent time developing scenario or contingency plans. These plans were critical for simulating “what if situations”. Sometimes, these plans morphed into disaster recovery plans, which dealt with weather issues, environmental incidents, and community issues such as fires and health hazards. But over time, this type of planning took a backseat to other forms of business planning. Now, COVID-19 has created turmoil and challenged all of us to the core with business viability and existence at stake. Companies must now have business resiliency targets in place, as well as growth and profitability goals, just to survive. Business resiliency planning fully embraces customers, employees, the supply chain, as well as the community. To deal successfully with business disruption, businesses must conduct business impact and systemic risk assessments across operations, the supply chain, the workforce, and communities. Keys to success to improve resiliency will include automation of processes, integrated and dependable IT systems, data analytics, and crisis management communications. I now remember why the scout’s motto “Be Prepared” has always stuck in my mind!

Sustainability as a planning platform has made great progress over the years but is now at a critical juncture as well. There are so many interrelated sustainability issues that we all have become well aware of, both of an environmental and social nature. Sometimes the journey of sustainability appears overwhelming. As someone recently said, we can still choose to look the other way, but we cannot deny the existence of these issues anymore. Businesses must have sustainability triple bottom line planning and reporting in place moving forward in order to generate progress and create long term value in environmental, social, and economic impact areas for their own enterprise and also within the communities which they operate. There is now a forward movement in strategic visioning to build purpose driven or future fit businesses for tomorrow, enterprises that are ready to successfully deal with all the marketplace issues, whether known or unknown. One shift in this focus is to now include a multi stakeholder purpose around businesses that maximizes stakeholder well-being. Who are these stakeholders? For sure they include customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, and stakeholders while embracing the environment and the communities in which businesses operate and serve. Communities are composed of residents, cities, neighborhoods, and the organizations that provide required human services. Regenerative and resilient communities must also haven sustainability planning in place and will also require business support and assistance to grow and flourish in the future.

In today’s sustainability discussions across the public and private sectors, new terminology is beginning to surface. In the private sector future ready, purpose built, or fit for purpose businesses are now gaining prominence for future visioning. In the public sector resilient and regenerative communities have become the vision of tomorrow for many cities. New leadership skills for both the private and public sectors will be required to address these new challenges and opportunities. And there is a sense of great urgency among us. Is there a common thread across the public and private sectors that can ensure we are on the right path? Yes, there is! Stakeholder capitalism has arrived, and sustainability remains at the core of this convergence for the future success of both the private and public sectors moving forward.

I wish you the best on your sustainability journey!

Norman Christopher


Photo by Isaque Pereira on Pexels