CAA-Banner-Colour
News

Worrying over what will happen in the future is not a proactive use of time or energy. Pat Divilly gives us two tools that can help manage our stress. At a time where we are dealing with unprecedented levels of external uncertainty, it’s essential that we invest in ourselves. Now is the perfect time to cultivate mental fitness through simple, daily practices that develop confidence, clarity and consistency. A fundamental need for us all is the need for certainty; feeling some level of routine and control. Though this has been thrown up in the air with recent changes in our external environment, we do have the opportunity to bring about more structure and certainty from within.  Mediation and journaling are two very simple tools that I have been encouraging for years to help bring calm to the busy mind.  Meditation Simply put, meditation is about bringing awareness to the present moment rather than living in the future or past. In times like these, it’s easy to fall into fear, which is always a future-based experience; a case of misuse of the imagination. None of us know what's coming in the weeks and months ahead, but it is clear that worry is not a proactive use of our time or energy. As a starting point for meditation, consider setting a five-minute timer and performing the ‘box breath’ for five minutes. For this breath, place a hand on your belly and inhale through your nose, breathing deeply and expanding your stomach. Inhale for four seconds and then hold the breath for four seconds. Now exhale through your nose or mouth for four seconds, then hold for four seconds. That is a box breath. Repeat for five minutes and watch how quickly your body and mind settles. Do not have any expectations about clearing your mind or getting rid of all thoughts. Instead, see this as a chance to calm the body through slow, deep breaths. After a number of days of practice, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how it impacts your feelings day-to-day. For best results, practice for five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Journaling The second tool worth implementing during this time is the practice of journaling. Most of us have a busy mind. Throw a pandemic and huge amount of change into the mix, and your busy mind can be overwhelmed. Journaling is about taking some of the mental noise from our heads and putting it onto paper to turn mountains into molehills.  Consider spending 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening with pen and paper. Keep it simple. In the morning, write down your top three priorities for the day and three things you are grateful for. These two prompts narrow your focus to what’s working in your life and what’s important for the day ahead. In the evening, write down your mini-wins of the day and what you learned. Confidence comes from seeing our progress but often we move through life so fast we don’t stop to acknowledge what we’ve achieved in the day. Recognising your mini-wins is about shining light on what you’ve done well. Asking the question “what did I learn today” allows us to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in the day and consider some small changes we could make going forward. The journaling and meditation practices shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. They are easy to do, but also easy not to do. I do know they will make a great impact in helping you maintain structure, keep you feeling grounded, and provide clarity in unsettling times. Consider giving this game plan a go for two weeks and see what happens!  Daily routine Morning 5 minutes box breathing. List 3 things you are grateful for.  List 3 priorities for the day ahead.  Evening 5 minutes box breathing. Recognise 3 mini-wins from the day. Reflect upon what you learnt from the day.  Pat Divilly is an Executive Performance Coach at PatDivilly.com.

Apr 24, 2020
News

Will companies be able to find the time and resources to focus on sustainability after COVID-19? Laura Heuston is positive that they will. COVID-19 has sent shock waves through the business community with most companies reeling from the immediate impacts. In the short-term, these companies will need to focus on survival – trying to stay afloat, minimise staff layoffs and keep supply chains going. This may mean temporarily diverting attention away from sustainability efforts which, until now, had been gaining traction as the business world realised its potential to lead the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future. The key question now is, will companies ever manage to find the time and resources to focus on sustainability again? At SustainabilityWorks, we firmly believe they will. The business community had already reached a tipping point where the corporate profit motive and environmental and social agendas were increasingly aligned, and we predict that as soon as businesses are over the initial shock, the COVID-19 crisis will bring the concept of sustainability into even sharper focus than before. Social sustainability issues that have come to the fore during the crisis include the consequences of the gig economy and the advantages of remote working. There is also a clear link between the crisis and climate change as scientists have warned for years that the risk of pandemics is growing as rising temperatures damage fragile ecosystems, which act as 'containment' systems for our planet. The mindset that believes sustainability will disappear from the corporate agenda due to the pandemic is the same mindset that used to underpin the description of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors as “non-financial”. However, there is an ever-increasing body of evidence that shows just the opposite – that ESG issues have a clear financial impact, with research proving a positive correlation between a company’s performance on material ESG issues and good financial performance. This positive impact is reflected in share price performance and in a lower cost of capital for those companies. Investors know this, which is why investors with over $80 trillion in assets under management have signed up to the Principles of Responsible Investment, the world’s leading proponent of ESG investing. In fact, the pandemic has already been reported by the Wall Street Journal as leading investors to ask more questions about employee pay and benefits, supply-chain management and other ESG priorities. Companies should expect more questions and more focus on these “non-financial” issues post-crisis – not less. And while there is a broad range of ESG issues that attract attention from investors and the financial sector, it is climate change that is really focusing minds. During his time as Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney consistently highlighted the threat to global financial stability associated with both the physical and the transition risks of climate change. This led to the announcement of climate stress testing of banks and insurers by the UK financial regulator, while other regulators globally are collaborating on the issue as part of the Network for Greening the Financial System initiative. There is simply no going back on the awareness of these climate-related financial risks at this point – not by the regulators, the banks and insurers they regulate, nor by investors. Finally, there are numerous examples of the current crisis bringing out the best in many businesses, with small distilleries becoming hand sanitiser producers, grocery stores paying staff unexpected bonuses and An Post bringing communities together with various initiatives from free postcards to free check-ins on our most vulnerable citizens. These actions will not be forgotten and they show the important contribution that businesses can make in response to societal challenges. This underscores one of our core beliefs in SustainabilityWorks: engaging strategically on sustainability simply makes good business sense. As policymakers and corporates call for stimulus packages to be “green deals”, the businesses that rise from the ashes of COVID-19 will be the ones that embrace sustainability as part of their core business and, in doing so, lead the emergence of a fairer, greener, more resilient world. These businesses will also become resilient themselves, something which will stand them in good stead for the bigger shocks to business-as-usual that are coming down the tracks from climate change in the coming years.  Laura Heuston is a Co-Founder of SustainabilityWorks, a boutique sustainability consulting firm that offers a unique blend of skills and experience across sustainability strategy, finance, policy and communications.

Apr 17, 2020
News

An economic downturn will be inevitable after COVID-19. How can organisations weather this storm? Having strong ESG risk-management practices in place is key, explains Lorraine McCann. At a time of fragility and loss of life, our sense of what matters changes. Significant events like the COVID-19 crisis force us to reflect and to examine what’s important personally, for our businesses, communities and society. At times when we’re faced with a lot of uncertainty, it is important to think about our purpose, the value we create and deliver, and for whom. For many organisations, sustainability for them right now means surviving; however, as we emerge and begin to recover from the current crisis, purposeful and sustainable direction can help us all navigate the uncertain and potentially winding roads ahead. Sustainability during the 2008 recession While many assumed the sustainability ‘trend’ would be shelved in the last recession, it was quite the opposite. A need to cut business costs created a mindset shift towards operational and resource efficiency that put sustainability centre stage in the recovery. Businesses that managed a much wider range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks were more resilient, and more capable of responding to rapidly changing market conditions. Companies quickly realised that focusing solely on financial value creation for shareholders was not enough to protect against the effects of the downturn. Leading with purpose and values, that extend beyond the financial and consider wider societal values, is now a key component in any business growth strategy. It was only through a complete collapse of the financial system that we were able to realise the true importance of sustainability impacts on long-term value creation of business in society. ESG and risk management is critical According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk Report 2020, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental, including: extreme weather events, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss and human-made environmental disasters. Understanding that another recession is upon us, every business should be critically factoring ESG risks into its risk-management function. There needs to be a recognition of the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic risks, as a failure to do so could result in material business impacts including profit-loss, operational impacts and potentially losing social licence to operate. It’s imperative that ESG is not seen to be separate to the business but integrated and connected in how a company generates long-term, inclusive growth for its shareholders. Strong ESG risk-management practices include: Governance structures for sustainability, ensuring management is responsible for sustainability risk, with the right skillset, knowledge and expertise in the business to appropriately manage this risk; Identification, assessment and management of risk to protect and create value; and Reporting publicly on the policies, practices and performance relating to sustainability risk management. Investors demand information relating to ESG factors In the EY 2018 Global Climate Change and Sustainability Services study of over 200 institutional investors, there was global consensus that ESG information is now critical to investor decision-making, and assessment of long-term value creation. “Investors believe that ESG factors can provide downside risk protection – 89% say that ESG information is somewhat more valuable (80%) or much more valuable (9%) in investment decision-making in a market downturn”. It’s important that organisations are clear on what is material to their business – that is determining which metrics will yield the most useful view of risks and opportunities that drive long-term value. Greater transparency and consistent, comparable data on these topics can also help restore trust and confidence in business at a time when credibility and brand may be at risk. Lorraine McCann is a Senior Manager and Leader for Climate Change and Sustainability Services in EY Ireland.

Apr 17, 2020
News

What does COVID-19 mean for climate change and sustainability? Dr Diarmuid Torney tells us how we can keep the conversation going about a sustainable future despite the pandemic. We are in the midst of an epoch-defining moment in history. The COVID-19 pandemic is a global tragedy, but what does it mean for efforts to tackle climate change and create a more sustainable future? Over the previous 18 months, climate change and sustainability were front and centre in government, business, and society. Greta Thunberg and the ‘Fridays for Future’ global school strike movement had captured the world’s imagination, drawing attention to increasingly dire predictions of climate scientists. Suddenly, climate change has disappeared from the news headlines. The world is understandably consumed by a different sort of crisis. Our current moment is what social scientists call a “critical juncture”. Most of the time, societies are more or less locked into particular economic, political and societal pathways. But moments of crisis – critical junctures – provide spaces for otherwise unthinkable changes in direction, and this critical juncture can provide opportunities for new conversations about climate change and sustainable development. Here are three ways we can take advantage of those opportunities. Managing systemic risk The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the fragility of our interconnected world and our vulnerability to systemic risks. The pandemic was an unforeseen risk, but the climate crisis is an entirely foreseeable risk. It is right and proper that the focus is currently on covid-19, but in time we will need to reflect on the lessons of the current crisis for managing systemic risk.  Climate change will have far-reaching, indiscriminate, and non-reversible society-wide impacts. We need to learn from the current crisis that governments have a responsibility to manage this risk and pay greater attention to warnings from scientific and other experts. Having been maligned in some quarters in recent years, experts and expertise are in demand once more. Adapting COVID-19 has enforced abrupt changes to how we work and live our lives. Although hugely challenging, many are finding new and innovative ways to adapt to this new reality. Coming out of the crisis, some of these changes should stick, and we should have more confidence in our ability to change our lives to accommodate more sustainable-living practices. We may become more selective about international travel and flexible working, for example, both providing benefits for combatting climate change. Government action and support The state is back in fashion. As a recent Financial Times editorial put it, “Radical reforms – reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades – will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy.” Governments across the world have intervened in unprecedented ways to support their national economies. So far, the focus has been on supporting workers and businesses that have been required to shut down temporarily, but attention is now shifting to the types of stimulus measures governments will put in place to restart their economies. There is an opportunity to align these stimulus packages around climate and sustainability goals. South Korea did this during the global financial crisis, devoting 80% of its stimulus package to green measures. There are significant risks, as well. Interest in sustainability has historically tended to wane during economic downturns, and government funding may be cut for sustainability initiatives. It is impossible to know at this point which of these futures will prevail. The COVID-19 crisis provides a potential critical juncture, but the outcome will be determined by the decisions we take collectively over the months ahead. Dr. Diarmuid Torney is an Associate Professor in the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University

Apr 17, 2020
News

In this uncertain environment, now is the time to conduct a strategic review. Brian Crowley explains how in four key steps. Life and our professional lives have changed fast in the last few weeks. In order to plan for the future, we need to assume that it could be the end of the year – or even later – before we return to ‘normal’ (although we can continue to hope otherwise). No doubt you will have plans in place to provide ongoing support to clients, employees and other stakeholders, while keeping  a close eye on your cashflow. Your business continuity plan should ensure that you continue to comply with all legal and regulatory requirements. However, it is time to conduct a strategic review. Develop strategies in waiting The usual starting point for an organisational strategic review is fleshing out the elements of a future long-term vision of success. But these are unprecedented times and the usual rules don’t apply. The best you can do, and should do, is develop a number of possible future scenarios with your leadership team and discuss what the strategic response will be to each scenario for input to contingency planning.* Document assumptions associated with each scenario carefully, so that they can be modified on an ongoing basis over the coming months. The output of this process is a number of potential ‘strategies in waiting’ to get you over the next 12 to 18 months, pending a full strategic review in due course. * Maybe you should be encouraging your clients to similarly prepare for the future. Assess your key clients  An assessment of the likelihood of your key clients surviving and thriving when the crisis passes will be a key input to scenario planning. Some sectors should be relatively unscathed (food retailers, farmers, some medical, pharmacies and other essential services), some we already know will struggle at least in the short term (sectors dependent on international travellers), and some probably have good bounce back potential if they can ride out the storm (pubs, restaurants, hairdressers). In carrying out this case-by-case review, you need to look at client end-to-end supply chains, the quality and resilience of management, key dependencies, and their financial resources. Stress testing Stress test for different recovery periods and specific sectors/businesses that will return to ‘normal’ quicker than others and include this key variable in your modelling. Monitoring what is happening to different sectors in countries further along the curve to recovery may be insightful. Watch what is happening in China, for example. Look at your own business model Reflect on different scenarios emerging and the possible implications for your business model. Is your current business model sustainable? Do you need to ‘up your game’ in terms of systems integration/automation? Are further operational efficiencies required to remain viable? Do you need to embrace virtual working and virtual communication full-time? Should you exit certain sectors or cease to provide certain services? Are there new evolving sectors that you should plan to target? What new services should you consider providing? In some cases, the outcome of this analysis may be to trigger an orderly wind-down of the business (e.g. for those approaching retirement age), or a total repurposing. At the end of the ‘pause’ in business as usual, you want to be able to say that you used this time to prepare as best as you could for whatever future business environment emerges when the fog of uncertainty lifts. Brian Crowley is a Business and Executive Coach and Facilitator at The Alternative Board.

Apr 02, 2020
Management

How can we lead people through these uncertain times? Wendy McCulla explores how managers can use the four stages of change to better understand and support their teams. COVID-19 is having a profound impact on the way we live, work and interact. The situation is extremely complex and continually evolving. No one can predict what will happen, so how can we support our employees through these uncertain times? Managing the process of any change is relatively straight-forward. Leading people (and their emotions) through that change is what makes the difference between success and failure. Most people do not like uncertainty. More so, a sense of loss of control. Employees may be feeling worried about their current and future job security, and even angry at decisions that management are being forced to make. The Kubler-Ross Change Curve (Denial, Anger, Exploring, Acceptance) is helpful to better understand employees’ reactions and identify how managers can best support them at each stage of the cycle. At the end of each stage, I’ve suggested some questions to think about. Stage 1: Denial When news of COVID-19 started to make the news, it seemed like something that was happening ‘over there’ and would not affect us. However, the situation has rapidly evolved and is now impacting on every aspect of our lives.  Any changes that are being implemented in the workplace need to be clearly communicated to employees. This can be difficult given the speed at which decisions are being made. Use all available channels of communication (team briefings, one-to-ones, emails, intranet) to ensure the facts are being shared. A lack of information causes fear and the grapevine will fill the void with its own versions of ‘the truth’! Ensuring that employee health and well-being are a priority in any decisions being made will help build trust with the team.  Ask yourself: How can I best communicate with my team, so they have the information they need to feel safe? What information do they need to explain any changes in direction? Stage 2: Anger As the reality of the changes in working conditions, workflow and job security becomes clear, employees may express anger. This is a natural reaction to the sense of unfairness of the situation and the feeling of lost control. Talk to your employees and, just as importantly, listen to their concerns and suggestions. Amid all the uncertainty, it is vital to make yourself available to support them. Enable employees to feel heard and valued. Ask yourself: Am I listening to my employees as well as giving them information? How can I role model the behaviours for constructive dialogue with my team? Stage 3: Exploring  As we settle into this new reality, talk to your team to identify how you can improve ways of working and servicing clients/customers. Perhaps employees can be trained in other skills or tasks to help them expand their knowledge and experience during the crisis. If work is slower, perhaps they could be encouraged to watch webinars or listen to podcasts related to their work to spark ideas for improvements. Many companies are now using technology to enable remote working and virtual meetings.  This will have an impact on how we work after the crisis ends. Ask yourself: How can we adapt the way we work? How can we keep employees connected (mentally and emotionally) over the coming weeks and months if many are working from home? What might we be assuming that is limiting our potential? How can we improve how we deliver for our clients/customers?What do they need from us right now? What can we learn from other organisations and industries that will help us evolve and survive? Stage 4: Acceptance  Offer plenty of encouragement to the team and publicly recognise creativity and collaboration (or any of the other positive behaviours you want to encourage). Share ideas for improvement and generate a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’. This is also a great opportunity to review your business strategy with the team and identify possible changes in direction based on what you have learned.  Ask yourself: What can we learn from this experience? Knowing what we do from this experience, what could we do differently to be better prepared for any future big changes? While there is uncertainty in the current situation, it provides us with a great opportunity to pause and reflect on what ‘good’ might look like for the future. As Winston Churchill said, “It is not what happens that defines us, it is how we respond to what happens to us”. Managers who stay connected with their team and work together through this crisis will be best placed to hit the ground running once we get through to the other side. Wendy McCulla is a Leadership Coach at Aspire Learning & Development

Apr 02, 2020