This article was originally published on, follow the link to read the full article.

At the moment, as the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis mandates immediate action to save lives, we're seeing some decisions that contradict the environmental agenda - such as plastic bags now being used again by supermarkets for deliveries.

While this is entirely natural, it's also very unfortunate that these actions have started to reverse some hard-won environmental progress. Yet, there is widespread public awareness that we cannot go backwards and we need to use this disruption as an opportunity to change ‘business as usual'. This gives me hope.

At this time, human health is being prioritised over environmental health, but the two are not mutually exclusive. They are intricately linked. We cannot forget that. As we start to look at the longer-term response to COVID-19, opportunities are emerging for our world and business leaders to put in place new policies, systems and models that support both people and planet.

I see two roles for green businesses and campaigners. The first is in influencing how things are done; to continue a robust dialogue that ensures the sustainability agenda does not get left behind. They have a role in calling for integrated, big-picture solutions and decisions that address not just the symptoms (public health crises) but the underlying conditions - such as inequality, a biodiversity crisis, and a deteriorating relationship with nature.

The second is in deploying resources to meet the humanitarian needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organisations can redirect manpower, repurpose product types, share IP or supply chain resources with peers, in order to help mitigate its effects.

Hopes and fears

It's a unique situation for people across the world to share the same existential fears at the same time - fear of instability, uncertainty, and fear for loved ones. At Forum for the Future, we've immersed ourselves in future scenarios for years and work with our partners to help them use futures processes to develop transformational strategies, but predicting unprecedented and rapid change is very different from living it.

Beyond that, my fear is that as societies confront the sheer size of loss and suffering, our leaders might still not see this as an opportunity to turn that loss into good, by creating the change we need. It's all too tempting to swing back to familiar and safe ground - but it's clear that what's familiar is not ultimately safe, and is taking us towards 'Hothouse Earth'.

Yet, the COVID-19 response has shown that humans are capable of achieving transformative change incredibly quickly. It's proof that a different way of doing things is possible.

Cataclysmic events have an undeniable negative toll, but they can also catalyse huge change. The economic impacts could last for decades. To cope, we need to adapt and reshape our global economy and the systems upon which we all depend. Our imperative is to think deeply about what we want them to look like: more regenerative, more distributive, prioritising both human and planetary health, and protecting our most vulnerable groups.

What the green economy can do

The green economy has regeneration at its core, and in a world shaken to its foundations, this approach is sorely needed. To date, the response of many businesses and communities has been heartwarming: overcoming competition and differences to come together for the common good. The green economy has a role to play in furthering this trend, and continuing to challenge the status quo.

Sadly, this is not the only crisis we are likely to face, as we contend with climate change, growing inequality, rapid deforestation, biodiversity loss, and extremism. The scale of these challenges are immense, and we need solutions that can answer to them. This is why Forum places so much emphasis on skilling up people to create systemic change.

We know that we face a volatile and turbulent decade - or century - and we can't afford to lose sight of the big picture. It will be a hallmark of visionary leadership to be able to address immediate circumstances, whilst holding the far horizon - and the immense complexity of our challenges - in sight. The green economy is well placed to take on this mantle, not just in leading change, but also in equipping others to multiply impacts that can create a sustainable future.