After the corona crisis will things be as they were before?

Reinhard Schneider, German Environmental Award winner and owner of Werner & Mertz

Appeal from German Environmental Award winner Reinhard Schneider for a sustainabletransformation instead of retro liberalism in post-corona era:

As justifiable measures were taken to contain the pandemic, many people had to cope withan immediate restriction of their civil liberties. That painful experience led to uncertainty andrevealed the weak reaction of our economic system to such a global challenge. Very longsupply chains were particularly prone to disruption.

An already proven way to shorten those chains and stop the depletion of natural resources isoffered by the circular economy!

Many people are now grappling with the question of whether a rebuilding of the economy canprevent the undesirable developments that led to the chains' susceptibility in the first place.Numerous trade associations, however, are demanding government support that would entailthe suspension and reduction of environmental standards. They stay true to the motto: We needan unhindered and unrestricted rebuilding of old structures. In my view that is not neoliberalismbut rather retro liberalism.

Interestingly, the latest studies by Europe's largest market research institute GfK/IRI show thatthe German consumer – or the German consumer right now during the corona crisis – does notwant to abandon the issue of sustainability. It appears that consumers at least have realizedthat sustainability is not an obstacle to our modern consumption but rather the prerequisitefor stability and security after the crisis. Unlike lobbyists for large corporations and somepoliticians, many consumers recognize that an ecologically-oriented lifestyle has the potentialto improve resilience to future crises. The GfK/IRI speaks of a paradigm shift away from thegrowth imperative to a discovery process in which retailers and manufacturers observe people'schanging needs and derive future challenges from them in the "new normal". (Source: RobertKecskes, IM AUGE DES STURMS – Corona-Shutdown in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, GfKWebinar on 3 April 2020)

Prior to conona, similar thoughts were expressed at the EU level in discussions about the GreenDeal. The suspension of the Green Deal now called for by several trade associations wouldlead to a further polarization of society and intensify a major problem for which there is novaccination – that is, climate change and the accelerated extinction of species!

Many companies (including Werner & Mertz) have realized that their pursuit of ambitiousenvironmental goals does not weaken the economy but instead helps to promote its stabilizationand growth. In the end the question is which of these recovery paths should be given politicalpriority or, to put it more bluntly: retro liberalism or ecological transformation?

We therefore call for:

  • Climate protection, biodiversity and the circular economy must keep their politicalpriority.
  • The existing laws for environmental protection should not be weakened but strengthenedinstead.
  • Politicians have to set up the fiscal framework for a bold, futuristic energy policy (CO2pricing).

signed: Reinhard Schneider, German Environmental Award winner and owner of Werner & Mertz