Both the human and commercial costs of Covid have been catastrophic for some, but it’s fascinating how lockdown appears to have accelerated a number of trends that we already saw bubbling up before the crisis hit. The demise of the high street and the trend towards online shopping is an obvious one, as is the move towards flexible and collaborative working that is powered by Zoom and Teams.
More interestingly is the acceleration that has propelled ESG into the heart of corporate life. There’s no doubt ESG was already a ‘thing’ before Covid hit, but there’s also no doubt that it has mushroomed exponentially since we all found ourselves locked out of our offices and trying to keep the wheels of commerce turning from our spare bedrooms. The media can’t get enough of ESG at the moment. Almost a thousand articles on ESG have been published in UK media in the last 30 days.
I’ve been wondering why this should be. Perhaps an increased sense of our own personal vulnerabilities has led us to care more for others? The market’s reactions to the Deliveroo float and a reported unease about business empires built on the gig economy might be a reflection of this. Or maybe it’s our cravings for the great outdoors and our desire to see beyond our immediate horizons that have caused us to care more for the environment around us? We’ve certainly all had more time to think. Perhaps it’s the faint whiff of scandal surrounding a number of covid related contracts – where did that track and trace money go? – that has finally tuned us into the essential need for companies to be properly governed.
Or maybe it’s just a vague sense that things can’t just go back to being the way they were, and ESG represents a movement that will change the world.