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Will people be more important than the economy in the wake of COVID-19?

Sustainability leader and company director Sam Mostyn predicts that a human-centric world awaits us beyond the pandemic. Values are shifting away from jobs towards people.

Even the Business Council of Australia acknowledges that we don’t have an economy without a healthy community – something sustainability advocates have known for what feels like forever.

If this is true, our organisations need to rethink their priorities, polices, processes and products. Even the words they use will need to contain more empathy and humanity.

So, it begs disbelief that we still hear our leaders talking about jobs. For many, jobs are a means to an end. That end is a life worth living. Leaders should be talking about lives – not jobs.

As the more earnest among us pause to observe World Humanitarian Day 2020 today let’s ask if we are showing humanity to others in our communities and our supply chains.

COVID-19 is taking a toll on people. How we treat others, especially those who are most vulnerable, is a measure of who we are as humans. After all, who are we without others?

In the birthplace of modern humans the word, ubuntu, means humanity to others. It is often read as ‘I am because we are’. It’s a belief that there is a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.

In a world with COVID-19 more refugees and asylum seekers than ever will seek to escape the economic chaos and violent conflict wrought by the pandemic in their countries.

There will be pressure on business to reduce costs in supply chains where human rights are already under threat, often in those countries most affected by COVID-19.

For the sake of humankind how do we avoid a ‘race to the bottom’?

As individuals we can start with acts of kindness for others. We can treat people from distant shores and vulnerable communities fairly. We can listen to – and not judge – their stories.

As organisations we can find out what happens to people in our supply chains. We can get proof from suppliers that human rights are being protected, respected and remedied.

Although most of us will never make the sacrifices that humanitarian workers do, protecting people in dangerous places, we can seek a kinder, fairer and safer future for all.

The economy versus people? It’s a false choice – and a deeply stupid one!


About Mark Paterson

Mark’s first job was milking cows. An award-winning career in journalism followed. These days when he's not trying to save coral reefs in Indonesia, dreaming about playing tennis on the Masters circuit or raising three kids in a blended family he thrives on consulting work that connects profit with people and planet. The son of corgi breeders, Mark would like to change the world for the better. Read more posts by Mark.

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