NEW REPORT: Here’s how sustainable business practices can build resilient local economies for post-COVID-19 community recoveries

The University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada), together with Transform Cities, has published a new report titled “Sustainable business practices can build resilient local economies for a post-COVID-19 recovery.


The multiple shocks produced by the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic are laying bare the fragility and vulnerabilities of global and local economies. The health emergency has severely disrupted a wide range of sectors, drawing attention to the narrow capabilities of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to withstand the impacts of these disruptions.

The pandemic has shifted from a health hazard into a cascading and system-wide disaster that poses fundamental questions about the resilience of our communities.

The velocity of its impacts has drawn attention to pre-existing socio-economic disparities and vulnerability embedded in our economy. In this shifting landscape, we have collected evidence of how different business configurations and sustainability-oriented models deploy practices that influence the capacity of firms to survive and even thrive in times of shock and disruption.

These practices provide templates that can inform a recovery effort rooted in sustainability, strengthening organizational and community capabilities by expanding business services, promoting the integration of new skillsets, and leveraging businesses to build local space and local networks that lead to more resilient communities.

In recent years, entrepreneurs have been increasingly recognized as actors with the potential to overcome barriers, think creatively, and mobilize resources to accelerate community transitions toward sustainability (Bos-Brouwers 2010; Westley et al. 2011; Green 2013; Loorbach & Wijsman 2013; Diaz-Garcia et al. 2015; Schaltegger et al. 2016; Burch et al. 2016).

All these characteristics are critical for building resilience across SMEs in the economic recovery process required in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting, replicating, and amplifying these practices, furthermore, can make strategic contributions to securing a prosperous, sustainable and climate resilient future.

We examined different types of enterprises and identified exemplary practices which illustrate unique approaches to delivering social, economic or environmental value. These organizations looked beyond the boundary of their own business performing practices which have the potential to make strategic contributions to building individual, organizational and community resilience. Their efforts reveal where policy interventions might create an enabling environment for these types of practices to flourish for an accelerated sustainable recovery.

Read full report (PDF).

See Transform Cities website.

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