Now that I have your undivided attention, let’s put some things in perspective.

Larry FinkCEO of the world’s largest asset manager — BlackRock,called Climate Risk as an Investment RiskandSustainability as BlackRock’s new standard for Investing.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has promised $10 billion towards curtailing climate change.

Delta airlines has promised an investment of $1 billion in the next decade to become the first carbon neutral airline by 2030. They’re contributing $100 million as voluntary carbon tax. ”

Nike, Adidas among others have launched a range of shoes and apparel made from plastic.”

This year started with these headlines which have now been replaced by everything coronavirus.

“Only if Climate change had Coronavirus’s publicist” — Mad Over Marketing

I am in no way trying to undermine the impact of the pandemic that we’re all currently living through. Covid-19 is predicted to affect 40%-70% of the world’s population with a mortality rate of 2%, a rate similar to the 1918 flu pandemic that killed around 50 mil people worldwide (Data point from John Oliver’s latest episode of Last week’s tonight). This sure feels like an episode of the Black Mirror or Thanos’s doing.

The pandemic has brought the world to a standstill and with the economy crashing and the propensity for a worldwide recession drastically increasing, naturally, organisations and governments are using the resources that were to be used to combat climate change, instead to overcome this global crisis and its repercussions. With the reduced oil prices, they will utilize this massive opportunity to resurrect and in-turn de-prioritize their transition into a low carbon economy.

I want to take this opportunity to remind you that climate change is a very real threat to our economy and the world that we live in. If the Amazonian and Australian wild-fires, three-month long flooding in Florida Keys and deadly heatwaves across Europe aren’t signs enough for you, do read this detailed study by McKinsey hereIn other news, Arctic may be ice-free during the summer by 2050.

Studies show that our brains are wired in a way that makes us worry about today, and not so much about the unforeseeable future.
While coronavirus is here and has come with petrifying repercussions, the long-term effects might be negligible. On the other hand, climate change is a predominant future threat, which without intervention, will be catastrophic for humanity.

But because every cloud has a silver lining, these unprecedented times have come with an opportunity for us to transition towards a low carbon economy and help make a difference.

  1. Reduced carbon footprints due to travel: Work from home and travel bans have led to a massive reduction in carbon footprint due to air-travel and commute to work everyday.
    A round trip from London to Mumbai generates about 1.2 kkg CO2, which is greater than the CO2 produced by a person in a year on an average in 63 countries including Pakistan. Try CO2 calculator here.As employees and employers, we should use these tough times as an opportunity to creatively discover sustainable strategies for consistent dynamic working in the future and be more comfortable doing so.
    Let us make a conscious effort to not put the weight back on after we recover from this illness and undo the little good that might come from it. Use public/company transport, car pools, walk, cycle and avoid travel as much as we can, after we recover.
    Side note — Airports such as Heathrow use IoT sensors which allow them to calculate the green-house gas emissions for every flight. There is so much tech available already that can be put to such great use.
  2. Develop a sustainability conscience: This HBR article talks about how 65% people in a study want to buy purpose-drive brands that advocate sustainability but only 26% actually do so.
    During these self-quarantine times, in which internet usage, especially social media is at its peak, learn about the good stuff —Understand the implications of your individual actions on the environment. Brain-storm with your friends, family and colleagues on how to contribute to this cause and use social incentive to influence the behavior of those around you. We have formed a sustainability squad at work which has made me more conscious than I was before.
    Creating simple habits such as
    – Switching off electric devices when not in use and using energy efficient appliances
    – Turning off the tap while brushing or washing your hands for 20 seconds
    – Segregating waste
    – Using digital channels and currency
    – Consuming sustainable brands/goods
    – Reducing meat in-take can help
  3. Consume less: Another amazing thing that has happened during this pandemic is the reduction in online purchases. E-commerce and our increased spending ability have transformed us into hoarders.
    Thanks to fast fashion, the average clothing purchases have gone up from 12 in 1980s to 64–68 in 2019 annually according to Hasan Minaj’s show, The Patriotic Act. Most of these items are worn 3 times or less.
    What’s the implication of this? It takes around 10k litres of drinking water to make a cotton jacket. 342 million barrels of oil is used to make a synthetic item. Wearing your clothes for 9 months longer can reduce the carbon footprint of that garment by 30% or buying one used item/year can help reduce 3 kgs of CO2.Let’s take this opportunity to spend less and consume less after we recover by
    – Letting yourself run of something before re-purchasing
    – Curbing spontaneous online purchases
    – Renting or buying used goods (do check out, Rent-An-Attire to buy Indian wear for weddings)
    – Sharing your belongings with others (I for one have started borrowing/lending clothes)
  4. Invest in Impact funds (Impact Investing): Learn about where/how your bank is investing your money and if feasible, invest in high impact and sustainable portfolios such as education, infrastructure, climate change, electric vehicles, etc. As a consumer, it’s important to be aware of such financial devices and in-fact find out about green products/ alternatives that your finance provider offers.
    Make wise investments in the future towards building a better world.
    (Please note that this is in no way an investment advise. Please act on your own accord.)

Finally, use this me-time wisely. Spend it with your loved ones and stay indoors. While doing so, develop some good habits — read and learn more, eat clean and pick up something that you really wanted to do but haven’t had the time to recently.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been living in Hyderabad with my family, thanks to the work from home policy. We’ve been trying out new games, recipes and watching a new movie/show everyday and suddenly the world isn’t looking that scary.

While you’re at home, think about one little contribution that you’ll make when it all goes back to normal. After all, my optimistic self believes that change is brought at grassroots and by grassroots.

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