“We’re going to get worse shocks than COVID-19”: Peter Bakker on the impact of this crisis on our current system and lessons for the future

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17 April, 2020


Insights from the CEO


WBCSD President & CEO Peter Bakker shares his thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis in an episode of CrisisCast, a Dutch podcast with Paul van Liempt for DuurzaamBedrijfsleven.

This is an English translation of a Dutch article on the CrisisCast podcast with WBCSD President & CEO Peter Bakker and Paul van Liempt that was originally published on 17 April 2020 by DuurzaamBedrijfsleven.

With the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Peter Bakker wants business to play a proactive role in the sustainable transition. WBCSD is committed to transformations in areas such as the energy sector, the food system, and the capitalist system. What does the coronacrisis teach us about the current system? Peter Bakker talks about this in the CrisisCast of DuurzaamBedrijfsleven.

“I think I’ve never slept in the same bed for so long”, Peter Bakker tells presenter Paul van Liempt. Where Bakker normally spends about 80% of his time traveling, he is now also tied to his home office. In Switzerland, that is. In the beginning, it took some time getting used to this. However, Bakker notes that: “Thanks to the current technology, connecting with people works much better than I had previously estimated.”

Businesses should take the lead

“Why do the really big changes need to come from business, even more than from governments?”, asks Van Liempt. According to Bakker, this is due to the unique position of companies. “First of all, companies are less concerned with re-elections. They are not working on a four-year cycle but can think in the longer term. A second point is that large companies have a global position. They can cross national borders, so that the entire international chain can be tackled.”

This last point is essential for Bakker. He states that anyone who tries to take individual steps in the field of sustainability will only achieve limited results.

Vulnerabilities and connection

According to Bakker, the most important question at the moment is what the current crisis teaches us about the resilience of our system. “We were not prepared for a shock as we are now experiencing. For this reason, for the future we have set up the COVID-19 Response Program. ”

This program consists of three parts. In the first place, we look at the vital chains in our society and in particular the resilience of the food system. A second project is to explore the paths that should bring society back to the new normal. And the third, perhaps most important issue for Bakker, is to look at where the vulnerabilities in our system are and how we ensure that we can deal with future shocks.

“There will be bigger blows than Covid-19”, Bakker expects. That is why he finds it important to identify the vulnerabilities now and to tackle the weak spots. That is crucial, and also to maintain the connections between people. “These connections have become much closer than before the crisis.”