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COVID-19 and the impact on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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Author: Corina Radu, Solutions4Impact (www.thesolution4impact.com)

After 9 weeks of lockdown, in which we have changed the way we communicate, consume, interact and live with ourselves and with each other, we are ready to say that COVID-19 has deep and tragic consequences, no matter the business or the location.

With almost 4.4 million affected people in the world, more than 300.000 deaths, 1.7 million people recovered, by the end of May, and disruption of life and business as usual (or at least as we knew it at the beginning of March 2020 ) this was a time when most of us had to reconsider all the aspects of professional and social life.

Unfortunately, nothing before has prepared us for this pandemic and we were caught off guard, considering some highly impacted sectors such as health and safety, fast medical aid, travel and mobility, consumption, distribution, and so on.

COVID-19 impact on sustainability and SDGs There are several conclusions that are already visible when we think how this pandemic had influenced the sustainability of our lives. Irrespective of whether we look at climate change, health and wellbeing, working conditions and jobs, water and food resources, all SDGs have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, as it shows below.

Fig 1. Source UNDESA

What is this pandemic teaching us about sustainability?

It has showed us the multiple weak points in our systems, lives and economies. It posed lots of questions to which we started looking for answers and solutions, when the situation became too serious to be avoided.

As someone who is observing life a lot, I asked myself recently what are the major pains that could have been avoided if any of the individual sustainable development goal was already implemented and functional. Would it have been better, could we have avoided some of the bad consequences or they would have taken place anyway? 

Here are my 4 key observations:

Locally developed for Local needs approach

This crisis proved that we are missing the locally producing facilities to address the local needs, and there are countless examples of lacking local production of medical supplies, independent from global imports mainly from China, now under restrictions due to pandemic, missing Medical kits and devices that are easily assembled, dismantled and maintained so that the response time to emergencies could be much more increased and given when  it was needed, same goes for disposing of single use healthcare equipment

Health and first aid

Many companies found themselves missing internal health policies, hospitals and clinics started to struggle for funding and personnel.  Many solutions are missing to overcome this such as potentially On call pre-diagnosis, at the distance for those investigations that can be done by the patience themselves such as temperature, historic of the symptoms, using existing apps for health check.

Supply chain

Going for food these days was more than impossible and many supermarkets realized how little their products are 100% available for online shopping, stocks went skyrocketing low and websites crashed because the traffic went insane. Not enough delivery personnel, despite the fact that people got their working scheduled half time, or they were announced about the ending of their work contracts.

Better use of human resources

Using existing personnel that remains unused for pre-packaging, customer delivery and online call center assistance instead of dismissing them or partial unemployment is a great solution from my side but this can be done if corporate systems are flexible enough and adapt quickly to the crisis. In times of crisis, more people lose jobs than the people who are allocated to another duty, something that companies have done it over and over again.

I strongly believe that this pandemic is a bitter sweet “aha” moment for all of us. Why? Few examples:

  • We saw the emerging of new ways of collaboration and working together as never before
  • We unfortunately saw thousands of people losing their jobs and companies bankrupt all within days
  • We learned new ways to deal with things and be present without being physically moved
  • We learned to trust ourselves and those around us
  • We had to let go whatever non-essential things we were doing
  • We learned, once again, that family and health are thousand times more important than anything else. Families come together and stayed home and that was almost an unexpected learning from this devastating pandemic
  •  We looked at what and how food comes to our table, what we buy and from where is sourced
  • We saw the raising of small agricultural businesses and proudly supported their deliveries and other services
  • Eventually, in some ways, we became more conscious about ourselves and the people and things always next to us.

After COVID-19: a possible Phoenix effect?

For me, Post COVID-19 time can be considered as a time for growth that, hopefully, gives back more than it takes. Few examples for this potential including circular economy can be already seen in few sectors:

  • Food production chain: potential for more resilience and local input, using seasonal work for example, local distribution, groups of farmers sharing and selling locally produced food
  • Re-frame of industrial value chain at least in some sectors, local sourcing leading to increase in quality, quantity and better use of resources
  • Competition increase, more room for innovation and new business models that are based on present needs and requirements
  • Home delivery boost, more attention to packaging and a  lot of innovation space for green packaging at lower costs
  • Increase of public transportation safety rules, positive change of mindset in personal mobility and car sharing increase

UN Secretary-General Releases 2020 SDG Progress Report

More information on the connections between SDGs and the current pandemic can be found in the newly released yearly report of the UN Secretary-General on progress towards the 17 SDGs.

Some of the story highlights include:

  • The yearly report of the UN Secretary-General on progress towards the 17 SDGs has been released ahead of the 2020 session of the HLPF.
  • The report draws on the latest available data on the indicators contained in the global SDG indicator framework as of April 2020.
  • The report enumerates how the effects of COVID-19 are “imperiling progress” towards the SDGs, in its snapshot of each Goal.

The full article can be found here: https://sdg.iisd.org/news/un-secretary-general-releases-2020-sdg-progress-report/

About the author:

Corina Radu

Founder Solutions4Impact https://www.thesolution4impact.com/

Mentor Global Women Network for Energy Transition

Passionate about sustainable development, experienced in design and implementation of international capacity building projects, supporting companies and organizations to implement sustainable solutions.

Since starting Solutions4Impact in 2019, my focus is helping businesses who are willing to tap into 12 trillion dollars’ worth of sustainable development initiatives.

Fortunate to gather work experience with project teams in Austria, Romania, Norway, New Zealand, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey, I have located to Vienna since 2012 and I enjoy working for projects that have a long-lasting impact. In addition, helping young professionals adopt the new way of work is one of my mentoring goals that I follow at Global Women Network for Energy Transition (GWNET)

Contact Details: E-mail: corinaradu.csr@gmail.com ; Mobile: +40 724 694 178 /+43 660 662 8200

Photo credit: Martijn Baudoin, Unsplash

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