Chris Read: Why it's time to focus on sustainability, compassion and awareness

Jenna Towler
clock • 4 min read

The successful UK vaccine roll out offers an opportunity to get ahead on the global ESG-linked reboot, writes Chris Read

You may recall back in the early spring the national media were crowing about the speed and effectiveness of the UK vaccination programme.

Some were keen to compare it against the sluggish start by the EU. It was as if the UK vaccination roll-out here was somehow a vindication of Brexit.

We were able to move faster than the collective EU machine by taking massive bets on a number of potential vaccines even before they were approved for use early last summer. Kate Bingham was recently awarded a damehood for her leadership of the government's Vaccine Taskforce – taking bets on a total of 340m doses of four different vaccines which were then under development. Thankfully, two out of those four bets came in: the BioNTech/Pfizer (30m bought at outset) and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca one (100m bought initially).

However, now we appear to have ‘got ahead of the game’ in terms of nearly inoculating the nation, we do appear to be rather zealot-like in our traffic light system - leaving only a few hassle-free ‘green’ country options open to us for summer hols.

Personally, I await the roll out of the EU’s Digital Green Certificate later this summer, no doubt to be linked to proving your double vaccination status.

Assuming we will all eventually get a proper holiday later this summer, (bear in mind most of us have thus far had to content ourselves with a few snatched days in an overpriced hotel or campsite somewhere along Britain’s coastline over the last 15 months), how are we going to use that vital breather?

New beginning

With the pandemic now under our control, is it time for a new beginning - a reset? During recent weeks we have wallowed in the glorious realms of the longest days and shortest nights, like a roller coaster we have made our way to the top of loop. The coming weeks will start our journey back to the shortening day and longer night. Are we at the right point in time to begin to construct a new direction for the roller coaster - a direction built on a greater focus on sustainability, compassion, and awareness?

There are of course those who consider progressiveness and tolerance as the antithesis to their belief set. Trumpism and popularist movements driven by partisanship and prejudice will continue to bark at the moon. These voices must now be sidelined so that a new, more positive future can be forged.

In 1689 the English Bill of Rights was enacted and signed into law. The law paved the way for William III and Mary II to become co-rulers in England after the overthrow of King James II. The bill lays out the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections and freedom of speech. Some 100 years later the United States Bill of Rights enshrined the rights of a free people.

This has formed the foundation of countless statements of rights for peoples of different countries. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 recognises all humans as being born free and equal in dignity and rights, regardless of nationality, place of residence, gender, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.

These are lofty ideals indeed, but they were enacted and have become part of the vernacular of coexistence today. Is it not time, as we emerge from the darkness of the pandemic to restate our rights, expectations, and aspirations for our long-term futures?  

Time to recalibrate

Is it not time also to recalibrate our relationships with our neighbours and restate our duty to each other? Obviously, the ship has sailed on Brexit. However, there is no better place to reboot our re-engagement with our neighbours than in a recommitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The ECHR was created amidst the devastation left by the Second World War to ensure that governments would never again be allowed to dehumanise and abuse people’s rights with impunity.

Perhaps a new 21st century bill of rights could be used to not only re-state well-founded enlightenment principles but also declare more modern principles which could help guide our thinking on protecting our planet and running commercial organisations which promise to support wider societal goals as well as meeting narrower financial targets.

Chris Read is group CEO at Dunstan Thomas

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