Just as companies were getting up to speed with their sustainability efforts, Covid-19 suddenly threatened their very survival. But the recent survey by Bain & Company of nearly 150 business leaders shows that sustainability remains high on most corporate agendas. Covid-19 has increased the importance of sustainability for nearly half of those executives interviewed, with 75% expecting sustainability initiatives to deliver permanent change.

Nearly half of the interviewed executives say that sustainability is more important in their decision making, and an equal number say it is more at the center of strategic discussions. The crisis exposed weaknesses in existing operations and opened the door for companies to shorten supply chains and make them more transparent, socially conscious and environmentally friendly. So it wasn’t surprising to learn that 43% of executives plan to improve sustainability-related processes.

Executives tell us that they will use Covid-19 as an opportunity to lean in on sustainability, as the pandemic has highlighted the importance of critical ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors. If the experiences of past crises like the 2008–09 global financial crisis are any indication, sustainability will remain a top priority, even as companies focus on survival. Companies that commit to sustainability during the Covid crisis will come out stronger, with more solid customer and supplier relationships, enhanced corporate reputations, and improved employee loyalty and productivity.