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How do we build a better world after this crisis is over?

We all have a core belief.

Individuals, organizations, companies. It is that thing which gives our lives purpose, the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning. The reason why I have devoted the past quarter century of my life to Nokia is because my personal values have been in perfect alignment with Nokia’s core beliefs.

I believe in the power of technology to improve lives. And I believe that by connecting people you build a better world. Nokia's mission statement is: we create the technology that connects the world. Why? Because by connecting people, you encourage the exchange of ideas and information, you enable empathy and the growing of knowledge, and, ultimately, you improve lives.

We also believe that economic prosperity and ecological harmony are possible, and that corporations have obligations beyond those to their shareholders.

Nokia’s People & Planet Report 2019, published today, looks at how we can improve the lives of people – our employees, customers, and wider society – and better care for our environment at the same time. The context our report is being published in has changed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the fundamental issues remain the same, and, if anything, now have greater urgency because of the challenge the world faces.

We all want this crisis to be over so life can return to normal. But what will normal look like when it is over?

There have been many bold predictions made about the future in recent weeks. My hunch is that things will broadly go back to how they were before this crisis began. But trends and technologies that were already happening will speed up. So more remote working and video conferencing will increase the need for better connectivity. The power of 5G and lower latency times won’t be abstract terms for the majority of people, but suddenly critical for everything from digital health to financial trading, to virtual classrooms, to government and international diplomacy.

As millions of workers are unable to get to their workplaces, employers will accelerate their automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT) plans. Driverless food trucks, automated deliveries, and advanced medical robotics may suddenly seem like urgent necessities. New technologies will also create new opportunities for workers in a range of industries spurring the economic recovery when it begins.

There may also be a fundamental rethinking of how and where we work. One effect of this unprecedented lockdown is that air pollution levels have fallen significantly as aviation, road traffic, and industrial output have come to a virtual standstill in coronavirus-affected regions. Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency shows that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have drastically reduced over major cities in Asia and Europe.

But as the human cost of this crisis continues to rise, we should be extremely cautious when talking about any positives coming from this pandemic. Saving lives and finding a vaccine remains the priority. Yet, if we learn the right lessons, and ask the right questions, there could be potential long-term benefits for people and the planet if we seize the opportunity to make the way we work and live more sustainable.

Using connectivity to improve social and environmental sustainability has been a key focus for Nokia in recent years. I take immense pride in our work to connect over half a million Brazilian farmers for the first time. Agricultural drones and temperature and moisture sensors have helped to cut the use of insecticides, reduce fuel consumption, and conserve water for irrigation while increasing yields of corn, soybeans, and other crops.

Our report also looks at the exciting work we have been collaborating on to deploy 5G and video drones to give scientists real-time data on environmental conditions like the presence of toxic algae in the Baltic Sea. Or the MegaSense project, involving Nokia Bell Labs and the University of Helsinki, to provide pollution warnings and air quality information to homes, businesses, and vehicles using connected sensors and 5G networks.

These are just a few examples from the report where our technology has enabled more sustainable ways of living and better care of our environment. After all, it is not enough to simply talk about beliefs and principles; we must live up to them, be transparent and accountable, and continually find ways of improving.

We are playing our part to keep the world connected through this crisis. And we want to play our part in building a better world for everyone when this crisis is over. But another core Nokia belief is to stay humble. We know we don’t have all of the answers, and it is only by working with others and being open to new ideas and different perspectives that we can come up with the global solutions that global challenges, like the one we’re facing right now, require.

Will you work with us?

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia using #sustainability, #CSR, #climate, #Under2Coalition, #OurOnlyFuture.

Rajeev Suri

About Rajeev Suri

During his tenure as Nokia CEO, Rajeev transformed Nokia into a leading technology company for a world connected by 5G and shaped by increasing digitalization and automation. Under his leadership, Nokia acquired Alcatel-Lucent, successfully expanded into enterprise vertical markets, created a standalone software business, and engineered the return of the Nokia brand to mobile phones.

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