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ESG Investing and the Covid Opportunity

Let’s first state a fact: the current Coronavirus pandemic is bad. Very, very bad. The numbers do not lie, so, please be safe, wear your mask, social distance, and isolate whenever possible. Let’s get through this together.

With that being said, there is also a bright side to COVID-19. We are sure you have seen the pictures of wildlife running free in the streets or the clear blue skies in previously polluted areas. The current pandemic has provided a chance for the earth to take a very brief breath, and has shown what a more sustainable future could look like. We want to talk about the opportunity this pandemic has offered for businesses to reshape their operating models and place sustainability at the core of what they do.

We continue to introduce the idea of Sustainability for All, our way of saying that sustainability encompasses the health and prosperity of everyone and the environment. That includes our need to lower prices on natural, eco-friendly, fair trade products so that sustainability is also affordable for everyone. That topic is discussed in the article “Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to Sustainability”, written by Marc Lepere and Giana M. Eckhardt in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. In the article, they explain that consumers cannot be held responsible for a company’s decision to implement sustainable practices based off of their consumption habits. At the moment, consumers are faced with the choice of either overstepping their budget to buy more sustainable products, or allowing companies to take their lack of action as disinterest in sustainability. According to Lepere and Eckhardt, these choices are put upon the consumer in order to maximize short term profits in an effort to appease company shareholders and analyst expectations, completely ignoring the long term effects of their business decisions. That is not Sustainability for All, really it is just sustainability for a few. However, this is where the current pandemic will allow for the conversation to shift.

Currently, the global economy is in shambles. Industries have been knocked on their backs and every crack in their supply chains have been pushed to the breaking point. The solutions to these problems lie in adopting more resilient, sustainable practices. Lepere and Eckhardt focus on the way companies can work together to set new industry standards for sustainability, take advantage of low interest rates and new work-from-home cost savings to increase investments in sustainable practices, and focus the source of their fund raising in ESG funds with analysis rooted in sustainable practices. ESG funds have shown a level of resiliency in the face of the pandemic that other funds have not, which demonstrates more consistent long term growth in the stocks. Additionally, basing analysis on more long term sustainability factors that the ESG funds provide will shift shareholder focus to expectations to more sustainable behavior in the company as well and pave the way for a sustainable priority in business decisions. As the process of changing shareholder expectations is put in place, which we believe needs to begin immediately, it is imperative that companies come together right now and set ambitious sustainability goals, pinpoint which investments must be made, and discuss how they will shift their business practices to usher in a post-COVID-19, sustainable future. As the article reminds us, these investments are not just in clean energy, but in equipment and education required to grow their employees’ skill sets and prepare them to succeed. Another example of Sustainability for All.

At Koura, we believe that this change will be ushered in by a partnership between consumers and businesses. We will continue to educate consumers and provide resources for them to connect with sustainable brands, while businesses take collective action on sustainability goals as we facilitate some of the actions mentioned above. Customers who have the means to must continue to choose sustainable options and buy from smaller sustainability startups who cannot lower prices. Our discounts will allow more members of our community to join in, delivering the traffic businesses need as they work to implement sustainable practices at lower prices as fast as they can.

When all of that occurs, we will reach a point where the prices are equal, the playing field is level and customers must make the easy choice to buy sustainably. And soon after that, as all companies adapt, there will be no need to make a choice. That’s our vision for the future.

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