Sustainability Revolution: The Pandemic Gives The Green Light To Sustainable Governance

di Eleonora Maria Mazza Micara - 15 Luglio 2020

from Rome, Italy

   DOI: 10.48256/TDM2012_00121

Accelerating Sustainable Development

COVID-19 has further highlighted an ever-increasing priority in the international arena: sustainability. The coronavirus outbreak has accelerated the need for a feasible “green print” and sustainability-driven programs. “In some ways, the COVID-19 crisis has become a dry run for the sustainability agenda and an opportunity for companies to see how they can tackle an expanding range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges” (Bain & Company, 2020). 


Open Call for Green Opportunities

Changes are necessary in order to reverse global warming and its consequent climate change. The unintended silver lining of the pandemic provided the perfect storm for an open call for green opportunities, accelerating the green agenda. The coronavirus outbreak underlined the flaws and weaknesses of current societies; nonetheless, it helped companies provide a glimpse into the future and the impact on corporate responsibility. Just as the quarantine of individuals and families has displayed how we can live without products that were previously part of our regular consumption, several governments have also begun to envisage the post-pandemic world, or at least the green path that is open to societies in the aftermath of COVID-19 (Codexverde, 2020).

The pandemic has urged the need for a profound adherence to the sustainability imperative. This worldwide crisis has demonstrated that green business can be achieved and adopted by both the public and the private enterprise. Former working methods can be replaced with more ecological ones. “Telework and virtual meetings show companies can reduce travel, with satellite images revealing decline in air pollution” (Bain & Company, 2020).


The European Alliance for Green Recovery

Numerous European governments have already endorsed the green initiative autonomously: the Environment Ministers of Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have proposed increased investment in sustainable mobility, renewable energy and energy efficiency to revive the economy and generate jobs (Codexverde, 2020). In the short term, the European Commission will propose a climate regulation and will advance a proposal to achieve roughly a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, as well as initiatives to develop an offshore wind energy plan, an industrial strategy, and new legislation on the circular economy (Codexverde, 2020).

These governments were joined by the European Alliance for a Green Recovery, a new grouping that brings together 79 MEPs from 17 countries; 37 CEOs of multinationals and large companies, including L’Oreal, Volvo, Danone, Ikea, Enel and Iberdrola; 28 business associations, trade union confederations and federations and 7 NGOs, such as WWF, Birdlife and the Climate Action Network (Carbonsink, 2020). 

Certainly not everyone is in this dynamic. There are some countries that are still thinking about building coal-fired power plants, continuing to relax national environmental standards or suspending payment to the emissions trading system, which in the case of Europe, forces nearly 11,000 industries to pay for their emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (Codexverde, 2020).


Behind the Scenes of the Sustainable Agenda

Behind these green initiatives there are two considerations to take into account: first of all, the COVID-19 pandemic does not serve as an excuse to retreat on commitments to combat climate change; moreover, the need to reactivate the economy is the opportunity to unleash a new economic model that revolves around sustainability-driven principles, fostering green prospects (Codexverde, 2020). This would revive the transition needed to “clean” the economy from greenhouse gases, which alongside the protection of biodiversity and the transformation of the agri-food sector, could generate rapid employment, growth and improved lifestyles for all citizens (Codexverde, 2020).

As Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has said regarding the European Green Deal, the time has come to reconcile the economy with the planet (European Commission, 2019). Her proposal calls for Europe to have clean industries, produce alternative fuels and increase train use. In addition, different political sectors have welcomed the European Commission’s inclusion of climate clauses in trade agreements to urge other countries to undertake similar reforms (European Commission, 2019).

Fortunately for Europe, the road to a green economy is not one that is starting from scratch, because in the last decade Europe has made significant progress towards the achievement of a sustainability agenda: for example, ten years ago, zero emission vehicles were just a prototype, and wind and solar energy were respectively three and seven times more expensive than today (Codexverde, 2020).


Urgency for Sustainable Action

Indeed, although we continue to focus on how to overcome the health crisis and the social crisis that affect us, revealing the worsening of the profound inequalities that exist in our society, there is an urgent need for sustainable action (Codexverde, 2020). Best practices based on sustainable responsibility will be key for future economic development and stability, and the European Union with the Green Deal might take the lead in launching green practices and sustainable approaches. 

As the then French President, Jacques Chirac, said 17 years ago at the Johannesburg Earth Summit: “it is first and foremost the responsibility of the developed countries, who are frontrunners in terms of history, power and their consumption levels, yet this is also the responsibility of the developing countries. These countries have to admit that there is no other solution for them than to invent a less polluting growth model” (Présidence de la République, 2002). 


Green Finance

The European Commission has recently given the green light to the enactment of the Taxonomy Regulation – “a key piece of legislation that will contribute to the European Green Deal by boosting private sector investment in green and sustainable projects” (European Commission, 2020). According to latest reports from the European Commission, this regulation establishes six environmental objectives, and conveys that “an activity can be considered environmentally sustainable if it contributes to any of them without significantly harming any of the others” (European Commission, 2020).

The Taxonomy Regulation epitomizes a milestone for sustainable development in the post-coronavirus era. “It will help create the world’s first-ever green list – a classification system for sustainable economic activities – that will create a common language that investors can use everywhere when investing in projects and economic activities that have a substantial positive impact on the climate and the environment” (European Commission, 2020).  The private enterprise will have to adhere to green norms and environmentally friendly measures, calling on its corporate social responsibility. “By enabling investors to re-orient investments towards more sustainable technologies and businesses, this piece of legislation will be instrumental for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050” (European Commission, 2020).


Source: European Commission

Environmental Objectives

Climate change mitigation (avoiding/reducing greenhouse

gas emissions or increasing greenhouse gas removal

Climate change adaptation (reducing or preventing adverse impact on current or

expected future climate, or the risks of such adverse impact)

Sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources
Transition to a circular economy (focusing on the reuse and recycling of resources)
Pollution prevention and control
Protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems


Final Remarks

The current crisis generated by the coronavirus outbreak has provoked a series of significant changes in society and its environment, underlining the urgency of sustainable action. Without a doubt, after the coronavirus upsurge and the ever-increasing threat of climate change, a series of proposals leading to the construction of a sustainable planet will have a greater influence on governmental modus operandi. “And while the crisis exposes weaknesses in existing operations, it opens the door for companies to shorten supply chains and make them more transparent, socially conscious and environmentally friendly” (Bain & Company, 2020). 

Eco-friendly arrangements will require pivotal changes in the actions of people, companies and governments in order to align their behavior with the sustainable agenda. However, trusting this adjustment of attitude will not be easy, since greed and ambition prevail in our society and there are many who, in the interest of accumulating wealth, will not stop negatively impacting society and the environment.



Bain & Company. (2020). Covid-19 Gives Sustainability a Dress Rehearsal (online). Available here (Accessed 7 June, 2020). 

Carbonsink. (2020). Green Recovery Alliance: the post-pandemic recovery plan of the European Union (online). Available here (Accessed 10 June, 2020).

Codexverde. (2020). Desarrollo sustentable post Covid-19 (online). Available here (Accessed 7 June, 2020). 

European Commission. (2019). Speech by President von der Leyen in the Plenary of the European Parliament at the debate on the European Green Deal (online). Available here (Accessed 8 June, 2020). 

European Commission. (2020) Sustainable Finance: Commission welcomes the adoption by the European Parliament of the Taxonomy Regulation (online). Available here (Accessed 19 June, 2020).

European Parliament. (2020). EU defines green investments to boost sustainable finance (online). Available here (Accessed 12 June, 2020). 

European Parliament. (2020). Green finance: Parliament to adopt criteria for sustainable investments (online). Available here (Accessed 13 June, 2020). 

IE University. (2020). Sustainability and COVID-19 (online). Available here (Accessed 8 June, 2020). 

Présidence de la République. (2002).  Speech by Mr. Jacques CHIRAC, President of the French Republic, to the Plenary session of the World Summit on sustainable development – Johannesburg (online). Available here (Accessed 18 June, 2020).


Autore dell’articolo*: Eleonora M. Mazza Micara, BA Politics, Philosophy and Economics, MA in International relations presso l’Università LUISS Guido Carli di Roma, e MA in Governance and Global Affairs presso l’Università MGIMO – Moscow State Institute of International Relations di Mosca. 


Nota della redazione del Think Tank Trinità dei Monti

Come sempre pubblichiamo i nostri lavori per stimolare altre riflessioni, che possano portare ad integrazioni e approfondimenti. 

* I contenuti e le valutazioni dell’intervento sono di esclusiva responsabilità dell’autore.

Editor’s Note – Think Tank Trinità dei Monti

As always, we publish our articles to encourage debates, and to spread knowledge and original and alternative points of view.

* The contents and the opinions of this article belong to the author(s) of this article only.