In this blog, Alex Montgomery shares how collaboration at different scales is helping us tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and questions why we haven’t done more of this before in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In this blog, Alex Montgomery shares how collaboration at different scales is helping us tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and questions why we haven’t done more of this before in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Covid-19 has altered how we live our lives for the foreseeable future, and many businesses have responded positively to this. A lot of the success stories during the pandemic have occurred where businesses have worked together to achieve a common goal. For example, the recent partnership between industry leaders AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford will hopefully enable the global development, manufacturing and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine.

If business learns anything from Covid-19 it should be that by working together, with a shared goal, the benefits to society and the environment can be much greater than what can be achieved alone. The SDG's can form the basis of these shared goals given their global and national relevance, as Sarah George recently wrote, they ‘provide a ready-made formula to build a green future that is just for all’.

Working together at a global scale

While political leaders have put their countries on lockdown, scientists have been doing the opposite and we are seeing global collaboration on a huge scale. There are many experts across the globe simultaneously focused on finding a vaccine. The Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Flu Data (GISAID) does exactly what its name suggests. It has allowed scientists to share virological data before formal publication to solve one of the biggest problems currently being faced across the world. Increasing the amount of sequence data available will provide crucial information to scientists around the world about the origins of coronavirus cases, revealing how the virus may change over time.

These global scientific partnerships have the potential to end our struggle against Covid-19, but there is a wider lesson to be learnt here. The influenza research community successfully benefits from pre-competitive collaboration. Communities and other sectors must take note and start collaborating too. It is increasingly important that businesses which normally compete now work together to achieve more.

Focusing on community impact  

Collaboration has also occurred on a much smaller scale and has shown the adaptability of many smaller businesses.

London-based recycling service First Mile has partnered with local farms and garden centres, and plant-based chemical company Delphis Eco during the pandemic. By using their ultra-low emission fleet of vans to deliver produce, they are diverting perfectly good produce to Londoners which would otherwise be wasted. Furthermore, all profits from their Plant Pack initiative will be donated to NHS Charities Together. 

It should come as no surprise that smaller local businesses have made significant changes to their operations during the pandemic. They are often deeply rooted in their communities and understand local needs. The plethora of business partnerships and community volunteering that has emerged in response to the pandemic has the potential to be a major contributor to the social change that is needed in pursuit of the SDGs.  

Collaboration has proven an important tool in our ability to function during a global pandemic, we must sustain it

Humans have always been and continue to be a successful species due to our innate ability to work together for the collective good. Throughout history, we have seen many examples of collaboration that have allowed us to reach otherwise unachievable goals. We have just celebrated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day which marks the day that the Nazi's surrendered. This would not have been possible if the allies were not in fact allies.

Good partnerships have the ability to use the limited resources we have to achieve more: we could have a greater impact, greater sustainability, and increase value through the collaborative advantage they give us.

During this global pandemic, we have seen communities working together better than ever, whether the global scientific and health community or local businesses. We must find ways to learn from this openness and adaptability to sustain the benefits of collaboration after the pandemic.

Alex Montgomery is a graduate of Human Geography volunteering with UKSSD to explore Covid-19 and links to the SDGs