2020 was a turbulent year. Most of us alive today have seen nothing like it. From a global pandemic that upended the lives of virtually everyone on the planet to the recurrence of natural disasters that confirm just how much we have betrayed nature to the changing face of both work and wellbeing.

Whilst the last 12 months will cast a shadow stretching far beyond COVID-19, we have the opportunity to make some dramatic changes. Here are some of the challenges that now undoubtedly demand our attention.

Climate change has a new urgency

To meet the global climate goal established by the Paris Conference of net zero CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050, we need to cut emissions in half by 2030, which is about a seven or eight percent reduction a year.

Accounting for climate change vulnerabilities

Climate change has become an investment consideration impossible to ignore. With natural disasters growing in frequency and intensity, and global financial regulatory activity gaining momentum, investors are waking up to the implications of climate change. There is increasing acknowledgement that climate risk equals investment risk. This awareness is changing the shape of future investments, with environmental, social, governance (ESG) becoming a core criteria for investors, leading to new opportunities for people, products and services that provide a boost to the planet, as well as yield profitable results.

Climate change and the construction industry

The building and construction sector play a central role in the shift towards a low-carbon economy. The sector’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions account for approximately 40% of global GHG emissions (WBCSD 2018). The major contributors to these emissions are the materials used as well as the heating, cooling, and lighting of buildings and infrastructure.

The construction sector should take care to manage climate change challenges actively and take responsibility for its direct or induced carbon emissions.

Consumers appeal that purpose surpasses profit

Whilst the concept of purpose-led business is nothing new, profit with purpose is set to become the new norm. With rising pressure from millennials (now making up more than 40% of all consumers and influencing about £30billion in annual sales), it’s perhaps becoming clearer that business cannot thrive in a world where people don’t.

More support than ever to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

There are a huge number of resources out there for companies looking to brush up their knowledge of the goals, and advance toward the UN’s ambitious targets set by 2030.

SDG Academy, an online platform of free educational resources compiled by some of the world’s leading sustainability experts. Plus, the SDG Action manager, a free tool that walks you through the process of assessing your own performance toward the SDGs, including gaps in performance and suggestions for improvement. 

The concept of wellbeing has taken on new meaning

Even prior to the pandemic, a focus on individual health and wellbeing was set to be a major agenda. However, with the stress and instability created by the pandemic — plus the sudden remoteness of managers from their teams — the duty of care between companies and their employees has taken on a whole new dimension of importance, especially in relation to mental health and health inequalities.