Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


How Covid-19 is Changing the world (Apr20)

West Dorset…

On our walk this morning my husband was physically threatened by a man we met – it was very nearly fisticuffs! I think the hostility came about through fear and isolation. The man thought that we were from ‘foreign parts’ and he started bristling the moment he spotted us. We were walking our dog through the fields, along a public footpath – and luckily we were close to home, so we hadn’t been caught out!

The Covid Crisis is sowing the seeds of division – young vs old, local vs incomers, poor vs rich etc (Second home owners are being demonised!). People are worried that we’ll never get ‘back to normal’ whilst others are wondering if that’s actually desirable. And, there’s also concern that the impacts of crashing the economy may even outweigh the terrible toll of the virus.

However, there are positive initiatives too. I thought it would be interesting to look at some examples of what different organisations are thinking and doing…..

These include: Chapter Zero – The Director’s Climate Forum, CHASE Africa, Ecotricity, Environmental Investigation Agency – EIA, FareShare, Good Business, Solar Century, The Conduit Club, The Food Ethics Council and WRAP (Waste Resources Action Plan).


7apr20 There is a real risk that the distraction and economic shock we are facing will displace environmental issues on the agenda of both corporate boards and governments, reducing the timeframe available to deliver the low carbon transition. It may appear that the current falls in emissions have bought a little time, but experts tell us that the loss of focus on strategic planning and action, the reduction in investments in renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies, and potential future climate-unfriendly economic stimulus packages, may far outweigh the short-term impacts of lack of travel and consumption.


Here in the UK we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. But we’re unsure how if it will cope in the coming weeks. Put yourself in the shoes of a rural woman in East Africa. You are 4 hours’ walk from the closest healthcare facility, which is staffed by one nurse and often runs out of medication. You don’t have enough money to stockpile food. You work in the informal economy, you have no savings and the government provides no support.

You are on the pill which is about to run out, you don’t want another baby and you’re facing weeks or months stuck at home. You’ve heard talk of ‘coronavirus’, but don’t know what the symptoms are, or how to protect your family. Some neighbours say it’s a rich man’s disease, and that you can stay safe by drinking alcohol.


2Apr20 Dale Vince, Ecotricity founder:  “Looking at the bigger picture briefly – this virus crisis is causing big changes to the way we live.  I hope some of them endure, that we question what normal life was and can be and we see options for another way to live.  At the same time I hope we can take this total can do mentality – and apply it to the climate Crisis. I’ve shared some thoughts on this online


23mar20 Despite a scientific consensus pointing to China’s wildlife trade as the most likely cause of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s Government is currently touting a treatment containing bile milked from bears held in captivity.

In February, the Chinese Government banned the consumption of most terrestrial wild animals as food in the wake of coronavirus. This should be a positive move if implemented effectively and ethically – however, the ban does not cover use of wildlife products in traditional Chinese medicine or as ornamental items.

EIA is calling on China’s lawmakers to use a revision to the country’s wildlife legislation to ensure all trade in parts and products of threatened wildlife – including bears, big cats, rhinos, elephants and pangolins – is permanently banned.


We continue a full national operation to get food to vulnerable people during the COVID-19 crisis.


Giles Gibbon founder of Good Business

3apr20 Alongside bringing current conditions into sharp focus, we believe COVID-19 will also predict – and even determine – which businesses will sink or swim over the coming decades. When all this is over, people will remember those that did the right thing. Those who upheld the rules of furloughing, rather than trying to cheat the system. Those who acted quickly and thoughtfully to repurpose resources for the good of society, rather than seeking to profit from fear and uncertainty. Those who recognised that if we don’t act now, there will be many more pandemics ahead of us – and, as Paul Polman suggested this week, rapidly transition to a way of doing business that does not decimate the animal and plant species we all depend on. 

Such businesses are already emerging, and we hope and believe there will be more. How organisations act in the short-term will determine their long-term future. Now is the time to decide what kind of business society and the planet truly needs – and to start creating it.


Climate crisis + Covid crisis = ? ….some early thoughts for companies able to help lead the green new deal

31mar20 Jeremy Leggett – founder of Solar Century: My presentation to Solarcentury’s annual review this afternoon, viewable here, focused on the way companies like ours can contribute to the backbone of the global reconstruction that will follow the Covid crisis, and how we can also help shape the reforms needed to defeat the climate crisis and rebuild a better society holistically.

I hope you find it a little uplifting, because not all the news is bad, and although far from certain, there may well be game-changing silver linings to our current clouds. Let us all hope and pray so anyway.  

THE CONDUIT CLUB – Gathering change-makers to solve real world issues

Introducing the Conduit Community Forum where you can share your ideas and initiatives to support our communities and each other in the face of COVID-19. (Only for members)


6apr20 Dan Crossley, Executive Director, Food Ethics Council: The Food Ethics Council continues its work and arguably has a more vital role than ever, not least ensuring we come out the other side of the pandemic on a fairer, more sustainable and more resilient footing, rather than bouncing back to business as usual. We also want to shine a spotlight on stories of compassion and hope during this difficult period. 

WRAP – At the forefront of the circular economy

Both WRAP and Defra appreciate the significant challenges and hard work that many not-for-profit food redistributors are currently facing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. These essential organisations play a vital role in ensuring surplus food can reach people in need or those considered most vulnerable, whilst also preventing this essential resource from becoming waste.

Comment Section

0 Responses

  1. An interesting article, Julia, with some good pointers for our country and planet’s evolution post-COVID-19.

    But, there are many more issues we are all going to need to face. The longer the debacle persists the more we will see fear and desperation take over for many, as your husband’s assailant illustrated! I keep thinking of new things and I ought to be making a list.
    It’s having a profound impact on my apple juice and cider sales with events and pubs/restaurants shut.
    To me the key questions will be who has the money to spend on things, and what things will be their (new) priorities? Surely it will beckon a big bye bye to many “luxuries”, excessive “consumerism”, much foreign travel, etc?
    Will property prices crash and change everything?
    Will we opt for basic income, which has an enormous amount to offer, once people get past a feeling/critique that it’s just some socialistic utopia?
    So many questions, so few answers. We all need to be asking the questions, of ourselves and of society, and trying to formulate durable solutions that work for society and the people, in preference to just for the business world.

  2. Julia, I’ve always taken an interest in your environmental activity.

    There are so many other issues, besides those you raise, which we all need to consider and react to and then change our lives to meet. I know for some it is harder to do through lack of money. I suggest that for many there would be surprise how even when poor some vital things can be done. This will be by a combination of will power and shrewdness in choosing what we consume – or more likely don’t consume, through our changed priorities.

    We the people can deliver the right outcome. Tomorrow! How? Well, we all consume so we need to consume wisely and with a minimal environmental footprint. We all eat 3 times a day – we could change the way food (and what food) is produced and processed simply by getting our meal choices right. Then we must not waste what we buy or cook!

    We don’t know what organisations and businesses are going do post-pandemic. They will likely have the biggest say in how we emerge and then redevelop society. Many will go bust, while clearly the business world won’t be the same as it is now. Who will have the loudest voice and make the most impact? Who can overturn the financial lobbying of government?

    Another dimension which many are missing, whilst indulging in our own personal crises and national self-wallowing at the moment, is the international dimension. I’m not thinking about America which is an almost impossible one to work out. It’s more the impact within China, and probably India. You can chuck in much of the Third World as well. Many will see this as beyond our ability to influence. It’s not! We consume, and in so doing enrich businesses and people with whom we disagree.

    There is much more that I could say, but this should be enough to be proceeding with!!

Leave a Reply