Why the environment is key to bouncing back from coronavirus

Farah Asemi from ecofleet writes about what it has been like running a sustainable delivery company during the coronavirus lockdown – and why the environment will hold the key to the UK’s bounceback.

As we are all trying to adjust to the new way of life with Covid19 epidemic now has become our primary focus in life, it has become really painful for me as an entrepreneur and environmentalist to witness the hardship suffered by so many people across the world.

At times like this I rely on the words of wisdom of my grandfather, reminding us that there are always four seasons in the cycle and one has to persevere the harsh winter as spring will soon be around the corner.

I started operating an eco-friendly last-mile delivery logistics business using electric cargo bikes in London eight months ago. Our ethos centres around affordable, competitive, first-class professional, timely delivery services while reducing air pollution as a replacement to diesel vans and lorries.

We continued to have record months every month with an increasingly loyal client base and a very happy workforce, getting ever closer the breakeven point.

The ‘black swan’ of coronavirus caught us by surprise like many others. We were hoping that Covid-19 would be contained geographically and only in mid-March we braced ourselves for the looming disaster. Our dedicated staff all voted with their feet and committed to stay with the business for as long as necessary.

Our business model, however, was focused on the B2B food delivery sector which came to a complete halt when offices and restaurants shut down.

I cannot think of any business other than pharmacies and grocery stores that have not been hit hard by the epidemic. Even the smartest economists and Nobel Prize winners cannot create a reliable forecasting model as to when and how we will bounce back from this doom and gloom. Just think of the devastation of the airlines, hospitality sector, automotive and aerospace industry, and retail stores.

These are the times when one needs to think outside the box and find alternative solutions. Our first mandate was to reach out to entities that could use our services providing food and medicine to the residences of people affected by the lockdown.

We offered our support to the NHS and all major supermarket chains. What we found was that all these organisations are scrambling to figure out their priorities before engaging with new stakeholders. Our sales team and senior management continue to reach out to help those in need.

We remain positive and committed to providing the quality of service we have built our business on. We are grateful for the comprehensive government support without which we would have already seen an incredible number of business closures and bankruptcies and much higher unemployment.

Covid-19 completely overshadowed the Earth Day celebrations this year. Financial survival, well-being, finding the right vaccines and toilet paper, and social distancing have become practically everyone’s priority. Governments across the globe have had to divert all their resources and more just to manage the crisis as well as their citizens’ expectations and fears.

So, the environment seems to have taken a back seat at this time with an increasing usage of plastic packaging and bags. The only silver lining for the environment is cleaner air from the much lower use of hydrocarbons in the cars and manufacturing sector.

I believe that this global calamity will bring a sense of community cohesiveness that has not been experienced other than during wars. Neighbours and families are reaching out to each other for support, whether it is with help for groceries or pure psychological assistance.

We are all appreciating everything we took for granted: going to a pub, visiting sports arenas and movie theatres, taking public transport without fear of getting ill, taking a plane journey to our holiday destination, and above all, job security. Our sense of gratitude for the people in the healthcare industry is another wonderful effect of the Covid19 crisis.

When we get back to ‘normal’ lives, which I am confident is a matter of time, we will re-ignite the torch of environmental consciousness and commitment. I hope we will also keep fresh in our minds the lessons learnt from this unprecedented calamity. Spring is around the corner.


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