The Covid-19 pandemic has “derailed” the sustainability movement, according to Tessa Clarke, co-founder and CEO of food sharing app OLIO.

Speaking at CogX, a virtual festival of AI and breakthrough technology, Clarke highlighted that 2020 was predicted to be the year when the sustainability movement gained momentum, but this has been understandably overlooked given the current situation.

“In the short term, Covid has definitely derailed the sustainability movement, because quite frankly, the only thing anyone’s been talking about the past couple months and understandably so has been Covid,” she said.

“Many of us we were gearing up for 2020 really need to be the year of finally taking action on sustainability and it feels derailed, but I really think that’s only a short-term thing.”

Carbon emissions are set to fall by a record amount in 2020, but some have predicted that this could be short-lived as economies look to kickstart again once the pandemic has subsided.

Covid-19 shows sustainability action possible.

Clarke commented that the pandemic has demonstrated that rapid behavioural change is possible, which could have a positive long-term impact on sustainability.

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“What Covid has demonstrated is what real action could look like in a crisis. What has been achieved virtually overnight through Covid has demonstrated that we can do things when we really want to and when our backs up against the wall. It’s actually quite inspiring and exciting to see,” she said.

“Government regulation has always been tipped in one particular direction to date – it’s been very supportive the fossil fuel industry, and of non-clean energies and activities. We now have an opportunity to tilt the playing field in the right direction through a massive governmental injection of capital incentives and regulation. And so I’m hopeful that this will actually get us to where we need to be faster than if we hadn’t had Covid.”

Clarke called for a focus on “clean economies and clean businesses” following the pandemic.

“It feels like 2019 was the year the world started to wake up to the climate crisis, and prior to Covid-19, 2020 was definitely shaping up to be the year where people were finally converting all that talk into action,” she said.

“We’re at a unique juncture in history right now where we have a choice, we have an opportunity to rebuild the future that we want, and I think we have to be bold and brave, not be protecting old jobs in dirty economies and actually be building new jobs in clean economies and clean businesses. Profit with purpose absolutely has to be the paradigm of the future.”

Cog X is a three-day technology event, which this year has focused on the theme of ‘How do we get the next 10 years right?’.

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