Though the specific timeline remains unclear, society will eventually adjust to and recover from the healthcare and humanitarian crisis, and move forward on addressing many of the economic and racial equality issues that the coronavirus has intensified. Yet questions remain: what type of world will we emerge into? And what will we have learned?
While it feels as though the pandemic has put the world on hold, ongoing challenges such as energy access, water and sanitation access, climate resiliency and others outlined in the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are likely only to intensify. When the virus forces 1.6 billion children to stay home from school, the ability to continue to provide education is at greater risk, the UN warns.footnote1 In addition, solutions to these issues must be developed to also address the ongoing impact on people and communities of color.
“No one can be fully prepared for something like this,” says Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America. Still, previous events such as the 2008 financial crisis provided “dress rehearsals for this moment,” she says. As the biggest global social challenge—the “S” in environmental, social and governance (ESG) writ large—that public, private and nonprofit entities have faced in several generations, the pandemic presents an opportunity to refine the collaborative approach needed to address the world’s toughest challenges.
Governments, philanthropy, and private businesses must work together as never before to tackle the coronavirus, the SDGs, and escalating racial and social equality issues, Finucane believes. Companies, in particular, must renew and strengthen their commitment to stakeholder capitalism—serving the interests of employees and communities in addition to shareholders, and operating according to ESG principles.
Meeting the immediate challenge
As governments provide trillions of dollars of economic stimulus and push for vaccines and treatments, nonprofits have reinvented their services in real time to address new and unforeseen needs. Businesses, too, have been called upon to act quickly and decisively, protecting employees’ safety and financial health and providing aid to communities affected by the coronavirus. “We must work together as a global community to address this health and humanitarian crisis,” says Brian Moynihan, chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of America. “And we must support conversations that can advance economic and social progress.”