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Leaving lockdown with purpose

Blog from Rory Murphy, Commercial Director, VINCI Facilities

Almost eight weeks to the day since my last blog and we seem to be taking pigeon steps out of lockdown. The delicate balancing act of public health versus economic wellbeing means that the stay at home message has been loosened and a version of normal life, albeit very slowly, is beginning to return.

Before writing anything of substance though this month I must take a moment to thank every member of the FM family throughout the UK that has delivered professional, critical and unwavering support to our nation in a time of national crisis.

COVID-19 has disrupted every part of normal life and whilst some in the FM community fixate on the return to the ‘office’ we should remember that as we emerge from this pandemic, many of the challenges our sector faced at the beginning of the year remain.

In terms of the environment the COVID crisis has seemingly given our planet some breathing space with air travel, vehicle movements and CO2 production all hugely decreased in a way that even three months ago would have been unimaginable.

How our global economies emerge from this crisis must not be allowed to take us back to where we were. In mid-April the UN celebrated the 50th Anniversary of ‘Earth Day’ reaffirming that whilst COVID-19 is clearly the biggest challenge facing the world since WW2 the planets unfolding environmental crisis is an even deeper emergency.

So, does COVID-19 offer us a once in a generation chance to ‘build back better’ in terms of how our businesses, organisations and economies recover?

If we are smart about our recovery can we ultimately deliver the triple bottom line benefits that can be achieved from truly focusing on People, Planet and Profit. To achieve these benefits though and to turn COVID-19 into a positive disrupter, we must lock in many of the changes in behaviour that this pandemic has brought.

Do we all need to travel as much as we once did? How can we maximise our new-found appetite for digital collaborations? How do we ensure our respect for care and key workers is maintained? How do we continue to harness the wellbeing elements of being locked down and the daily exercising, the enforced family time and the appreciation of some of the simpler things in life?

As our Government look to provide the undoubted stimulus that will be required for our economy post COVID how can we ensure that those measures consider the wider impacts of the health and wellbeing of our nation and in the broadest sense our planet.

Support must be focussed on building a stronger economy that balances the long-term wellbeing of people, whilst creating meaningful employment opportunities that support economic and social development. We need to focus on tackling climate change with the same energy and resources that COVID-19 has attracted whilst building a more resilient and inclusive society.

How we emerge from this pandemic and our response to the climate emergency will be the defining issue for our generation. If we have any chance of hitting net zero emissions by 2050 then how we behave in the next 10 years will be critical. The design, construction and operation of the built environment is in our gift to influence, how we utilise space or even how we commute to and from our workplaces should be clearly in our focus.

The stark reality now though, however, is how will our economy respond to saving our planet when the devasting effects of COVID-19 mean that in the immediate term may organisations are focused on just staying in business?

The answer to that fundamental questions is going to be played out right across our profession and sector over the coming years and we will never be forgiven by future generations if we miss our opportunity.

I would suspect that, given that many of the businesses in our sectors and beyond will have benefitted from significant COVID-19 support from our Government, organisations will come under even more pressure to be a force for good. The new normal may indeed require us all to focus on the people and planet, whilst ensuring we deliver purpose as well as profit in all that we do.

About Sarah OBeirne

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