21 May, 2020

What is good for the hive is good for the bees

Stuart Irvine

It feels like an age has passed since Australia’s devastating bushfires; in reality, the final blazes were contained only a couple of months ago.

The extraordinary twin crises of 2020 have rocked us to our core, but they have also brought us together as a society. They have demonstrated perfectly how our individual and collective futures depend on our ability to pull together for the common good. To quote Marcus Aurelius, “what is good for the hive is good for the bees”.

In the face of the bushfires and COVID-19, governments have stepped up with unprecedented support programs; businesses have directed money and resources to communities in need; and individuals have extended helping hands to neighbours, colleagues, families and friends. Whole populations have willingly made huge lifestyle compromises and financial sacrifices for the long-term interest of the community as a whole. And almost all of us have done it without batting an eyelid.

Physical distancing has demonstrated how every business is a cog in a much larger wheel. In our industry, it’s more apparent than ever that our operations, and those of our customers and suppliers, are inextricably linked to our society’s ability to be sociable and live well. We are all in this together.

So how do we all keep pulling together for the common good as we emerge from the crisis? How do businesses and governments that are praised for being “good in a crisis” continue being a force for good into the future?

Throughout the crisis, a distinction has been drawn between the interests of community health and the interests of our economy – that we must be prepared to sacrifice the economy in order to save lives. I believe this is a simplistic dichotomy arising from short-term thinking. The extreme measures taken in Australia and NZ to control the spread of the virus are a long-term investment in our economy. Bouncing more quickly out of COVID 19 will set our economy up to recover faster also.

It’s the same for business. Building a sustainable business doesn’t require a binary choice between delivering financial results and doing the right thing for the common good. It requires both these things. Lion’s commitment to shared value has us looking for strategies that deliver value for society as well as long-term financial value for Lion. Our proud announcement last week that we are Australia’s first major brewer to be certified Carbon Neutral is an example of this.

And we are hoping all governments can do the same as they start developing post-pandemic policies - including on climate change. What is good for the hive is good for the bees; so if we look after the planet, it will look after us. As a society, we have shown our willingness to make short-term sacrifices for the long-term common good; now the question on our minds is “What have we learnt from all this that can help us create a better world?”

Let’s hope all leaders are asking themselves this question as well.

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