On 31st March ResponsibleSteel board members from IUCN, IndustriALL, ArcelorMittal and BlueScope Steel took part in an on-line panel to reflect on how the coronavirus crisis was affecting them personally and professionally, and to consider potential long-term effects.
The breadth and depth of impacts across such diverse organisations and across all geographies was striking. Giulia Carbone of IUCN noted that 2020 was to have been a ‘super year’ for biodiversity. But the pandemic has disrupted the quadrennial World Conservation Congress, the meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the launch of a new global framework to protect life on earth. Alan Knight and Gerry Tidd, of ArcelorMittal and BlueScope Steel considered that while steelmaking is used to economic cycles, the severity, suddenness and global nature of the crisis created by the coronavirus is unprecedented. Markets are drying up and companies are fighting for survival. And Matthias Hartwich of IndustriALL observed that the crisis has put workers’ health at risk as companies try to continue to operate, and yet also threatens workers’ rights as businesses lay workers off without proper consultation or provision.
But perhaps just as striking were the personal commonalities. All four speakers were speaking from their homes. All four organisations were having to cope with new ways of working, trying to keep staff safe while maintaining core tasks, and having to deal with restrictions on travel and meetings.
And all four drew attention to surprising linkages – the impacts on small NGOs as their partnerships with businesses are affected, just as small and large businesses are struggling financially with knock on effects through global supply chains. The fact that 80% of the oxygen supplied to hospitals in New South Wales is a by-product of BlueScope’s steelmaking. Or that ArcelorMittal’s 3D printing capacity has been repurposed for the manufacture of ventilators.
Looking to the future Alan Knight reflected on what the crisis may mean for sustainable development and the climate debate. While it is too early to know, he hoped that there would be recognition of the deep connections between different systems, and the strength and resilience of governments, NGOs and businesses working together towards common social and environmental goals.
Thank you to all our speakers.back to news