Picture: 123RF/LIGHTWISE
Picture: 123RF/LIGHTWISE

As we begin to see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, we can start to consider what future we want to create as we begin the global recovery. For Ireland, which celebrates its national day, St Patrick’s Day, on March 17, it created a moment to contemplate the future.

Ireland believes the time is right to emerge from the pandemic by focusing on building back better than before, by prioritising sustainability, taking active steps to combat climate change, and tackling some of the environmental challenges of our time to secure the future health of our planet for generations to come.

There is no denying that the pandemic has been a defining period in our world history; it has brought with it great tragedy with the loss of people close to us and disruption to livelihoods, and changed the way we live. Its impact should act as a lesson on the fragility of our wellbeing — both personally and economically.

As much as Covid-19 has defined this period, it has not defined us; in fact, it has defined our spirit of resilience. As we move towards an ever-closer end to the pandemic we have an opportunity to ensure its legacy is one not of sadness and fear, but one of hope, optimism and change.

With this resilience, this hope and optimism, we should set our sights on bringing about real change — it is time for us to be more green, more sustainable, and ensure we prioritise the well-being of people, our economies and ultimately our world.

As we celebrate this St Patrick’s Day, we also celebrate being ready for a green future combining the role of government and our innovative companies operating across Ireland that are ready to collaborate and enable this greener future. With Irish companies already working in partnership with companies in SA and the wider continent, where their reputation for delivering world-leading innovation is valued, this trend will only increase further.

Failure to take decisive action will bring with it significant consequences to our way of life, our businesses, the jobs they create, and ultimately the health of our planet for future generations

Exports from Irish companies to SA have increased by 50% year on year, showing the demand in place for Irish innovation to contribute to the transformation under way in Africa — the rapid increase in demand for data centres to power the growing data super-highway, which Irish company Hanley Energy has been supporting for several years, to Abbey Machinery, with its long-established relationship in Africa supporting reduced carbon emissions with innovative farming technologies.

There is clearly an opportunity to act in a more sustainable way, while bringing business benefits that can harness innovation to drive a competitive advantage. This focus on innovation is close to our hearts in Ireland as we are ideally positioned to play a key role in this agenda. By prioritising a greener future we not only fuse a collective ambition for the world, we also ensure a more resilient and sustainable world economy.

Building this resilience makes a business more sustainable, and being a sustainable business makes it more resilient.

This week, Enterprise Ireland’s international green innovation campaign, Ready for a Green Future, is being launched by Leo Varadkar, the Irish deputy prime minister. The campaign will showcase our world-leading green innovators who are solving complex technical challenges and delivering sustainable and low-carbon solutions to make renewable energy viable, reduce energy waste in our cities with smart technology, reduce agricultural waste, and make construction cleaner.

Failure to take decisive action will bring with it significant consequences to our way of life, our businesses, the jobs they create, and ultimately the health of our planet for future generations. Currently, we are on track for a 3.5°C temperature rise by 2100. If the global pandemic has shown us anything, it is how life can be affected and changed overnight.

Let this be a catalyst for change, a driver for decisive action, and an enabler of focused momentum as we transition to a low-carbon economy.

Only through collaboration towards our collective ambition can we achieve the vitally important steps of progress that global citizens expect. The returns for this will be felt for generations but also bring with them shorter-term gains for the business world. Evidence shows that businesses taking a sustainable, long-term view are better at overcoming short-term challenges too.

Being a responsible business not only meets the growing level of societal expectation, it also makes sound business sense through the level of investment that can be attracted and the greater value returns created through better profitability. Companies will be securing their longer-term future, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity across the globe.

This St Patrick’s Day we may celebrate differently than before — gone are the in-person parades and gatherings, replaced by virtual celebrations. However, we still celebrate and we do so with hope, optimism and a greater sense of belief in a more positive future. We are ready for a green future, one that is more inclusive, more resilient and delivers a more sustainable society. This is a legacy we could all feel proud about.

• Kelly is senior market adviser for Africa at trade and innovation agency Enterprise Ireland.

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