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More than four out of five Canadian businesses believe their review of operations due to COVID-19 will enable them to rebuild their organization on firmer environmental foundations, according to a new HSBC survey conducted at the height of pandemic restrictions.

HSBC Bank’s survey polled over 2,600 companies in 14 countries and territories — including 200 in Canada — between April 28 and May 12.

Polling data shows 41 per cent of Canadian businesses said sustainability is more important than ever for their organizations, with internationally operating businesses slightly more likely (44 per cent) than those operating domestically (37 per cent) to see the importance of increasing sustainability.

"It’s heartening to see that lessons learned and priorities reevaluated during this period could act as an accelerator for corporate environmental sustainability efforts," said Dan Leslie, deputy head of commercial banking at HSBC Canada, in a statement.

"The first half of 2020 has been challenging for all Canadian businesses," he added. "These findings confirm what we’ve been hearing from our customers who are increasingly raising environmental, social and governance considerations and demand for products."

Bram Strain, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba, said organization assessments by Manitoban businesses have also led to "valuable conversations about how they can be greener in the future."

"It’s a mixed bag of people assessing these goals before the pandemic and some that were forced to have these conversations as a result of it," he said.

"With the carbon tax and just good overall environmental stewardship, people had already been looking at greener solutions," Strain added. "Assessments during this time though are likely helpful beyond the pandemic."

The survey also found that Canadian businesses "felt less prepared" about challenges faced in the past six months than international markets.

But not all COVID-19 impacts were negative. While many businesses have been negatively affected by a challenging first half of 2020, close to four out of 10 Canadian businesses surveyed say they increased production to meet rising demand in recent months.

Meantime, more than three in five firms say they have been actively pursuing new prospects and 91 per cent are collaborating more with other businesses.

That includes Shelley Ediger’s clothing manufacturing business, GarmaTech Inc., based in Winnipeg.

"We quickly had to shift gears during COVID-19," said Ediger. "We’re now focussing our business towards making personal protective equipment and manufacturing medical supply for health-care workers, based on demand and on consignment."

Temur Durrani

Temur Durrani

Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for this Free Press reporting position comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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