A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset the system

If you really want to have sustainability, you need to deal with dangers when they come, and not ignore them.

It takes more than just wearing aon your lapel. We've had four different epidemics before this one, and we still got caught without masks! I'm quite sorry about this.

The danger that we all now face is that we have to react like firefighters, rather than like strategists.

Pre-pandemic, companies had begun to realise that growth at all costs was not sustainable. Now, like in many other things, the COVID-19 crisis will accelerate that realisation.

I have been speaking about business as a force for good for a long time. At Roche we follow the United Nations’as much as we can. We see this work as visionary, as reasserting the long-term development of the economy, and as a way of keeping prosperity and humanity together.

But the reality is that as a society, we weren't set up to do that properly. The pandemic made that painfully clear. We have not made our global healthcare and research systems a priority. And one single, very small virus – a very unsophisticated life form – has succeeded in nearly destroying our civilization.

 You cannot run a business post-covid as you ran it pre-covid. So the idea of a “return to normal” is a fallacy. But I believe the silver lining in that particular cloud is that perhaps we have finally learned that we must treat nature, people and society with more respect.

In business, we need to measure the use of natural, social and human capital in a way that’s conclusive to long-term value creation. So the impact of a business should not be measured just with money. If you want to eradicate poverty, throwing money at the problem is not enough. You also need to create a framework in which people can contribute themselves to the solution. And I think the Sustainable Development Goals approach has certainly provided such a tool.

Yes, short term, we are in a crisis situation. But if we rebuild on a basis that is more respectful of the interdependence of our natural world, our human world and our economic world, I think we are in for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of resetting the system.

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