Human kind has been humbled. We are in the midst of a pandemic that reminds you that we live in a world that where everything is connected – from humans, to all other living beings, the entire earth’s biodiversity and the resources we consume off it. It’s also quite clear that we – as individuals, society, business or economy – cannot operate in isolation forever. We need everyone else in the chain. Everyone’s job matters. It’s a time when the meaning of the word dignity of labour stands out loud and clear. There is no sustainable future if we are not inclusive. Every human has a story to tell.
In the past few months, we have also witnessed clear blue skies and wild-life which gets us to wonder what we have done to the earth and nature. On the other hand, we are witnessing a global recession, with millions of people rendered jobless and concerned about their future.
We are facing a paradox between ‘Life & Livelihood’. And, this challenge will get even more acute as we add another 2 billion people to the earth in the next 30 years. Asia & Africa are rapidly urbanising and cities are becoming nation’s source of economic and political power. Cities of course, concentrate things, with more and more people wanting to be at the same place, at the same time, for the same purpose. Obviously, this has a telling effect on congestion, fuel consumption, emissions, waste and quality of life for all living beings and the earth.
However, there is some hope. Even if we have not been fast enough to address the concerns of our earth, the last decade has seen the emergence of tools that could help us overcome the threat to the earth from the waste we generate, the natural resources we are depleting, the CO2 footprint that our activities generate. New Innovations, AI, alternate fuels, alternate technologies, smart cities, connectivity, lean manufacturing as a result of 3D printing, collaborative robotics, augmented reality and more, are some of the tools on hand to dramatically change the way we operate in the world – albeit at different paces in different markets.
Also, a lot has already been done. Taking examples, from within Volvo Group itself, back in 2007, Volvo Group displayed 7 trucks with 7 different alternate fuels, in a way highlighting to the authorities that it is really not an issue of technology but setting a path forward that everyone can align with. In the past years, much development has taken place in the area of electro-mobility as well and for example, the concept super truck project that shows that we can improve fuel consumption by over 70% and freight efficiency 80% better than targets – by resorting to lighter materials and vehicle design. Recently, at a construction equipment site – coupled with electric and automated equipment – we could demonstrate that carbon emissions reduced by 98%, there was 70% reduction in energy costs and 40% reduction in operator cost. Recently, Volvo Group displayed platooning trucks operating on roads of Europe and demonstrated profound savings when it comes to fuel and emissions.
Ironically, as a global community, we have all along been aware of the problem we are part of. We also have had the tools to do something about it. What probably has been missing is the “level of global will to act together.” And probably the “compelling urgency”.
The COVID situation provides us a circumstance that can help us find the will, come together as global community and start deploying the tools we have with a benevolent purpose. The pandemic is providing us with a kind of a re-set button. People around the world have started questioning if the pre-Covid times were really ‘normal’. Maybe it’s because lives are at stake, but people are ready to adopt behaviours we would have never imagined before. Government authorities are focussed and efficient. Suddenly, government agencies do not operate like an ‘authority’ but as an agencies working for people. And people do not sound like ‘common people’ because every role has become key in keeping business and life “on’ even during a lockdown.
This crisis situation is an opportunity we should not waste. Its marked by collaboration, a shared concern and vision, priority to people and their well-being; appreciation of what the earth offers us; inclusivity; the need to focus on essentials, the importance of the ‘weakest members of society’ and their needs and the rise of leaders.