What Else Can We Do?

Typically, this would be an exciting time for me and my colleagues at Covestro. Excited about the release of our new corporate social responsibility and sustainability magazine for North America. Excited to share stories of our innovative collaborations with community and environmental organizations that engage and drive our social purpose and sustainability work.

But things are different now. And I, like so many, am concerned about the state of our world and communities as we struggle with the country’s longstanding social and racial inequities, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic’s effects on virtually every aspect of our lives.

When the coronavirus struck earlier this spring, it changed everything on a dime. People lost their jobs overnight, through no fault of their own. Families found themselves separated indefinitely. Parents, doing double duty as teachers, discovered a new-found appreciation for the myriad roles schools and teachers play in our and our children’s lives.

And, there was the virus, itself. As infections rose, so did concern about the prognoses of those testing positive and about the availability of adequate medical supplies like ventilators and personal protective equipment for front-line medical workers.

Early on, we recognized that while we were all navigating the same unchartered waters together, we were not all doing so in the same boat. Yes, certain scenarios were similar, but there were differences. And those differences define who we want to be, the communities we want to live in, and the world we want to lead.

Some left their homes daily for essential jobs. Some experienced food insecurity for the first time. Some closed their small businesses never to open them again. Most tragically, some lost their lives.

Social gaps became bigger and more obvious. It was clear communities of color around the country were being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Then, came the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and both Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, in Brunswick and Atlanta, Georgia, respectively. Clearly a tipping point.

The injustice could no longer go unheeded.

And so something positive emerged — the triumph of the human spirit.

In cities and communities large and small, people of all races, ethnicities and genders have peacefully raised their voices to say enough is enough. Things must change and change now. Because just as no one is above the law, no one should be below it either.

The pandemic also revealed something else — the ingenuity and resilience of people. From the beginning, people stepped up to meet this new challenge and help their friends and neighbors in new, creative ways.

Nowhere was that more evident than at Covestro. I’m so proud of our employees in North America who have never stopped asking — pandemic or no pandemic — “What else can we do?” Food insecurity is a good example. We’re longtime supporters of local programs, like 412 Food Rescue and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. But with such unprecedented demand stretching their services to the limit and beyond, our employees have responded in unprecedented ways to help them, Ohio’s Licking County Family YMCA and other similar food programs around the country.

Again, that question, “What else can we do?”

That can-do attitude comes through again and again in the stories featured in the magazine. Even though they were conceived, written and completed just days before the coronavirus changed our world, they offer a snapshot into the kind of social purpose and sustainability work our employees engaged in before the pandemic. They are now representative of the type of work that is yet to be done.

Many of the organizations and initiatives highlighted will be integral in the rebuilding and recovery work ahead of us. Among them Bay Area Homeless Services, United Way, the Pittsburgh Promise, Gwen’s Girls, Project SEED, CONFE and PULSE.

As a country, a company and as local communities, we’ve got our work cut out for us. And, now, more than ever this work must be enveloped in passion, compassion and kindness with equity and inclusiveness at the core.

Head of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility for Covestro LLC in North America

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