Students from EADA Sustainability Club have been speaking to a range of professors and experts from the EADA community to discuss how we can learn about COVID-19 and the what implications are for sustainability and business. This week, Professor Joan-Miquel Piqué shares his thoughts on global governance, the economy, and future opportunities in times of COVID-19. He sat down with us to discuss his thoughts and opinions on navigating through this unprecedented time.
Joan-Miquel Piqué holds a degree in Economics and Business Administration with a specialisation in International Economics and Growth from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (Spain). He is an entrepreneur and an advisor to entrepreneurs, SMEs and managers with over 15 years of experience in public and private companies, both in Catalonia and internationally. Piqué currently teaches Geopolitics and Economy, Strategy, and Innovation at EADA and he is a founding partner of Maurilia Knowledge.
The Economy will recover
All the numbers show that the economy has taken a hit this year. This is no surprise when you consider 75% of economic activity has been forced to a halt. However, unlike the 2008 Financial Crisis, this specific dip is not a result of a dysfunctional economy, as Piqué explains; on the contrary, “there was nothing wrong with the economy”. Pre-coronavirus, we enjoyed a healthy balance of supply and demand, economic growth and job prospects. Unfortunately, as we flattened the curve, we simultaneously shut down factories, closed stores, and ordered consumers to stay home. Although countless lives have been saved through social distancing initiatives, many fear a recession is looming. It is difficult to determine how our markets will recover, but Piqué believes that we will not see a V-shaped recovery, explaining that “just like in the stock market, you can go down 10% in one day, but it will take you more than one day to build it back up”. He predicts a “swoosh-shaped recovery”. This will take time — most likely many months to a year. Although our economic recovery will be incremental, Piqué reminds us that it will recover.
Welcome to the “new normal”
As we work towards this state of “normalcy”, we need to redefine what normal is. Piqué began the discussion by urging us to “forget about 2020 and forget about going back to normal”. New consumer habits will develop, labour markets will change, certain industries will come out more robust, government interventions will shift, and businesses will start adapting to a low-touch economy. All this considered, we need to accept that the “normal” we once knew will cease to exist. Piqué believes we should all be adapting to this “new normal” and start seeing the new opportunities it will bring. But remember, changes happen quickly, so the time to start adapting is now.
Global crisis calls for global coordination
Although globalisation has created many opportunities for the global economy, COVID-19 has uncovered the many risks and challenges associated with it. COVID-19 has starkly brought to light how our world is rapidly growing with virtually no universal or international restrictions. It begs the question: How can we live in a globalised world without cohesive globalised action? In light of this crisis, the coordination between countries, states and even continents has been nothing short of appalling.
A COVID-19 lockdown experience is different in every country. The restrictions we face in Barcelona are extraordinarily different than in Canada, Sweden, Nigeria or Argentina. Not even Europe has a uniform approach to tackle this crisis. These blurry restrictions will hurt our societies and economies, but one of the greatest tragedies in this pandemic is that developing countries will suffer far more than developed nations. So, where is the global coordination? Throughout this crisis, organisations such as WHO and the UN have acted solely as key information centres instead of guiding policymakers and governing bodies. As we move towards the exit strategy and recovery phase, we must consider tackling the crisis from a global perspective. Piqué emphasises that we have the capability and institutions to achieve this, we just need to empower them.
Is sustainability on the table?
Before COVID-19, “sustainability” was a common buzz word lingering in the corporate world. Now, as COVID-19 consumes our society, some fear that the momentum to get sustainability on the agenda is fleeting. Piqué discusses a different mindset, noting that we are witnessing the easing of environmental degradation. In a matter of months, we have significantly reduced emissions, releasing 1 million tons of carbon dioxide less than the previous year. COVID-19 is holding a mirror up to our society, confirming that our actions directly affect our climate. This rapid reversal is perhaps the wakeup call we were waiting for, but stakeholders need to act. It is unclear how governments and businesses will view the climate crisis and if they will be focused solely on economic recovery. However, Piqué urges us to keep up the momentum to bring sustainability to the forefront.
Forget about “normal”
Piqué’s advice is simple: Do not think about going back to “normal”. Embrace the “new normal” and act now by drawing your own conclusions about this situation and applying them. Don’t hide from COVID-19, instead collect memories, take photos and write about this time as much as possible. This will be a defining moment in our lifetime.
About the author
Izzy Ahrbeck is a German/Canadian student currently enrolled in the International Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation and is one of the leaders in the EADA Sustainability Club. She has lived and worked in in 8 different countries including Canada, Japan, France and Switzerland, and is passionate about seeking the truth and giving a voice to the less heard.
About the interview series
In this series of interviews, contributors to the EADA Sustainability Club Newsletter explore how the role of business in society is shifting and adjusting to these unpredictable and complex times with COVID-19, covering topics such as digital data technology, emotional intelligence and global governance. Other articles include: Back-to-basics with Associate Dean Jordi Diaz, Technology as an “enabler” with Richard Ferraro and The Challenge of Ethical Leadership with Professor Ferran Velasco.