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Building Back Better Must Center Resilience Practices Among EU Businesses

22 December 2020, 17:52 CET

As Europe begins dispensing the COVID-19 vaccine, we've finally reached the point at which building back better is more than just a slogan - it's time to make it a reality. That means we also need to clearly define what building back better means. What comes next?

Though there are many potential pathways we could take towards building back, most experts agree that the process must emphasize the idea of Just Transition and prioritize concepts like sustainability and resilience. In the aftermath of a pandemic shaped, at least in part, by climate change in a globalized world, these features will be central to how we do business and will define the idea of "better" for a post-COVID world.

Getting Back To Work

One of the major concerns regarding the business environment of tomorrow is how we can get people back to work as usual. That's because, although remote work is a viable option for many people, it takes a toll on individuals' mental health and, in combination with remote school, is unsustainable for many families. With this in mind, businesses need to consider how they can restructure their spaces to enable safe communal work, while thinking beyond COVID-19. That's because, once populations are properly vaccinated, COVID-19 transmission may not be a major concern, but building back better needs to include preemptive design for future pandemics.

Designing for future pandemics may include everything from outfitting public spaces with permanent glass screens, rethinking office plans with modular equipment for split operations, and even instituting enhanced technical measures. The EU is already in the process of launching new cyber-resilience rules, which – if kept up to date – could protect against the increased number of digital attacks we've seen in recent years.

Sustainability's Central Role

Another key element in building back better will be ensuring that new changes are in alignment with sustainability principles and agreements like the Paris Accords. What will that look like? An early statement by the Coalition for Action stressed that any major stimulus needed to be in alignment with current climate goals and emphasize green development. Supporting outdated, harmful energy producers like the petroleum industry is not in the best interest of long-term recovery and resilience. Economic stimulus strategies can't blindly support such industries because they've been damaged, but must foster growth in future-oriented areas instead.

Taking A Global View

COVID-19 recovery plans obviously center on those nations developing them, but it's also important to recognize and contend with how this pandemic has shaped global relationships and what is has taught us about preparedness and response capacity. For example, while wealthy, Western countries like the United States had a disproportionate number of infections and deaths, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is not known for its advanced healthcare or governmental systems, quickly shut down and contained cases to just over six thousand in total. This should force a reckoning in how powerful nations think about such unequal relationships, how low-income nations should be treated in the vaccine distribution process, and what is to be learned from these countries, which are more often viewed as recipients of knowledge, rather than transmitters. Building back better means confronting those relationships.

Even as we begin the process of redeveloping economic systems for a post-pandemic world, we need to remain flexible. In times of crisis, that ability to pivot – something large systems tend to struggle with – is critical to survival and damage mitigation. Are we ready to move forward with such a strategy in mind?

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