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6 resources to help navigate the COVID-19 crisis

Coronavirus has drastically shifted all of our futures, and that’s true of sustainability teams. Many plans, initiatives, improvement projects and end-of-year goals have been put on hold to tackle the immediate crisis — even if long-term aspirations remain steadfast

Now, the goal for many businesses is to ensure the health of their employees and weather the economic disruption. The pandemic shouldn’t wipe out all of the positive steps forward that have been made in the past decade, and the ones we hope to make in the future. But sustainability teams know that this won’t be easy, and everyone could use a little help during these uncertain times.

Along with GreenBiz’s own coverage, we’ve assembled this list of resources emerging to help corporate sustainability professionals navigate the coming months, and in some cases, take advantage of new opportunities that are rising as a result of the pandemic. (We recognize this list is not all-inclusive. If you come across others that have been particularly helpful for you as a corporate sustainability professional, let us know at [email protected].) 

1. WBCSD's COVID-19 response initiative

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has created an entire program to help sustainability teams react to the disruption caused by the virus and subsequent shutdowns.

"We realized that this is the new normal, and we need to do what business does best," said Diane Holdorf, managing director of the food and nature program at WBCSD. "Respond quickly."  

Along with highlighting core business shifts being made by its 200 member companies for others to emulate on its website, WBCSD has identified three key priorities that it believes need to be addressed with collective action plans: 

  1. Creating a resilient short-term plan for vital supply chains, starting with food manufacturing and production 
  2. Returning to normal sceneries focusing on safely allowing employees back to work
  3. Assessing long-term impacts focusing on the lessons and vulnerabilities highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis 

WBCSD’s research in these areas will produce guides, blueprints, checklists, scenario planning tools, risk reassessment protocols and roadmaps for businesses over the next few weeks and months.

2. Rocky Mountain Institute blog posts

The Rocky Mountain Institute is looking at the pandemic as a practice round for climate change. 

Many lessons can be taken from this crisis and applied to the one we already know is coming. Its post, "COVID-19, Data and Climate Change," outlines how transparent and accurate data can create a successful and efficient response to a crisis. The post provides a tool for evaluating the problem, identifying solutions and surfacing data that is actionable.

While many of these insights are being applied to the virus, they provide a framework for future crises. Other useful recent posts on the site include "Innovating to Solve Two Crises at Once" and "COVID-19 and Climate: Risk, Mitigation, and Resilience."

3. Ceres 2020 digital programming

Like many conferences, Ceres had to cancel its New York event this spring because of the pandemic. But its digital programming continues until May 5 with top sustainability executives discussing the challenges, obstacles and opportunities coronavirus brings the industry. Recordings of past useful sessions are available, including:

4. ReFED’s COVID-19 U.S. food system review

ReFED distributed a survey to more than 80 food businesses, food recovery organizations (FROs) and others in the food industry to gauge the state of the food waste during the shutdown. The review will outline the changes occurring within supply chains and how to overcome new obstacles created by the pandemic. It illuminates ways to distribute food to those in need and reduce waste as restaurants, schools and other fresh markets disappear. ReFED is committed to continuing to collect and share food recovery resources, help identify important organizations that need funding, and analyze current and future food systems to create a more resilient supply chain. Every Wednesday, the organization is hosting conversations with experts as part of its Better Together: Food System Best Practices for Navigating COVID-19 series discussing topics such as labor, safety, policy and finance.

5. BSR's COVID-19 Content Hub

BSR has a dozen resources and events already available to help businesses navigate the pandemic and make them aware of common missteps. Its Rapid Human Rights Due Diligence tool (PDF) guides leaders through a writing exercise to help determine the challenges and find the best response to a human rights crisis when time is limited. A 2008 scenario planning exercise on a hypothetical pandemic is coming to fruition and the learnings from that practice session can be applied right now. 

6. thinkPARALLAX's internal communication action guide

As businesses shift to a new normal of working from home during uncertain times, clarity of internal communications is of the utmost importance. Sustainability communications firm ThinkParallax created an internal communication guide to help corporate leaders speak to their employees with authority, calm and reassurance. The guide focuses on highlighting a company's specific values and purpose as the backbone of its ongoing communications. The guide also outlines how to keep employees connected, identify key communication channels and personalize messaging within the company. 

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