• It is time for people, and the environment, to be put back at the heart of all models and vision of socioeconomic progress.
• Markets cannot function if no employees are able to work, no consumers able to go out and buy goods.
The past six months have shaken many theories, and enabled some key principles and values to resurface to a global consciousness that had been irresistibly drawn to a forward flee towards globalisation, prosperity at any cost and, let’s face it, short-termism.
It is time for people, and the environment, to be put back at the heart of all models and vision of socioeconomic progress. Markets cannot function if no employees are able to work, no consumers able to go out and buy goods. As government struggle to balance health and economic imperatives, we discover that the key lever might actually be the social capital that institutions have—the ability to command respect and trust by their citizens, employees, or simply fellow humans to shape a safe return to ‘normal’.
There can be no long-term stability, let alone shared prosperity, if growing numbers of people are left behind. There can be no lasting economic achievements if the social fabric of nations is not nurtured and the well-being of the planet respected.
The ‘newly industrialising, middle-income country’ status envisaged in Kenya’s Vision2030 will not be realised without providing a high quality of life to all Kenyan citizens in a clean and secure environment.
Economic growth needs to be socially inclusive and sustainable – at country macroeconomic level, as well as at company microeconomic level. The recent months have demonstrated in no uncertain terms that integrating the social and environmental dimensions of economic growth is not only a matter of public policy but actually a critical business decision for private sector leaders.
If they are business decisions, we should ensure we take them consciously, strategically and commit to monitor their implementation and track their impact – including, by the way, the positive financial and reputational impact they have on our businesses.
To take such strategic decisions, leaders require data. Deciding which data is required is usually the first step in analysing the overall risks business are exposed to. The Covid-19 crisis has surely heightened or widen the perception of risks.
Such analysis is also what helps leaders identify great opportunities—for a more resilient supply chain, better human resources practices, recycling options, fairer financing and payment terms or even for partnerships with key stakeholders to design new solutions for today’s challenges.
Any company that has embarked on its sustainability journey will be able to share the difficult questions and highly insightful answers that this journey is made of. They will also be able to share how such an approach was instrumental in designing its answers and mitigating plans for the current crisis.
The Sustainable Development Goals provide a unified data framework that can be used at country and company level. Using a single framework across the entire spectrum of stakeholders, from government to private sector companies, large or small, would enable the country to unify the efforts of each and all actors of our collective rebound. It would also ensure the government is able to truly integrate the contribution of the private sector in its planning of the way forward to 2030.
Kenya presented its Voluntary National Report to the UN last week. While it is mainly driven by government achievements – and we must commend our government for its success in entrenching the SDG in its various plans – 60 companies contributed to it, twice as much as during our last VNR. This is great, but we need more. The challenge is to get all businesses on board, to truly accelerate and deepen our transformation and build an inclusive and sustainable growth. For all and by all.
As all businesses need to integrate some measures of sustainable management to simply recover, we have a unique opportunity to entrench these ‘forced’ changes to truly transform our economy in a sustainable and inclusive manner and in so doing accelerate the realisation of Vision 2030.