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THE NEW NORMAL
Marque’s post-COVID playbook

EDITION No.1
The New Normal - Watch me
Whether it’s Zoom fatigue, not knowing if it’s a workday or a weekend, or your “co-worker” Karen’s coffee cup on the kitchen bench again – we get it, living and working at home is tough.

Okay, so when will things go back to normal?  We hope never.  This is an opportunity to re-imagine, re-design and re-build.  Think about something that you hated pre-COVID.  For me, it was telling clients they couldn’t witness an agreement via facetime, despite video conferencing being a part of our everyday life.  Maybe for you, it was coming into the office every day, despite having to take 2 buses, a train and a ferry just to be there.

The biggest challenge we see facing us post-COVID, is resisting the urge to slip back into business – and life – as usual. 

Over the last couple of months our government, our businesses and our communities have gone into overdrive to make COVID-life bearable.  Whether it’s the government pushing through legislation, businesses pivoting in entirely new directions or moving Friday night drinks to the House Party app, we’re doing things differently.

The way we now use technology has fundamentally shifted how we will use it in the future.  But digital transformation is not just about technology.  It’s about the physical spaces we work in, the people who we work with and the reasons why we work there.  

Marque Lawyers is a commercial law firm that aims to do law differently.  Our purpose is to redefine the law firm as a collaboration of exceptional (and exceptionally happy) lawyers dedicated to using the power of the law for positive change – for ourselves, our clients and society.  We’re part of the growing community that believes businesses can balance purpose and profit and create a more inclusive and sustainable economy while we’re at it.

Our post-COVID playbook aims to navigate and create the “new normal”.  What COVID-laws should remain, what opportunities will emerge, and how can the law change to fix the gaps which COVID has highlighted? We’re tackling things like:

This Edition


Your supply chain

Next week
  • What will and can the post COVID energy world look like?
  • What do we want, a right to privacy.  Why do we want it?  Good question. 
  • What do we lose by insisting on a strict right to privacy? What could we benefit by loosening it?
  • The Competition and Consumer Act in a world with more collaboration and less consumption.
Join us in the journey through the new normal.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew.  This one is no different.  It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.  We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us.  Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.  And ready to fight for it.
 
- Arundhati Roy, full essay available here.
COOL STUFF

Cool Stuff No. 1

Capitalism – our saviour or destroyer?  Check out this brilliant economic theory on the subject.
Kate Raworth talks donuts and tackles the sacred notion of growth.  She believes "what we need, especially in the richest countries, are economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow".

Cool Stuff No. 2

How do we social distance, but at the same time commute and travel through our cities?  Some cities are converting part of their roads to bikeways.  Lower carbon emissions + infrastructure spend + exercise.  What a cool solution.

A supply chain to boast about, rather than hide?  Time to #redesign your supply chain

BY EMILIE BLAKE & JUSTIN CUDMORE

You’ve had to terminate suppliers during COVID-19.  Or your own supply contracts have been cancelled.  You’re not alone,  EU and US Retailers have cancelled over $1.5 billion worth of orders just from Bangladesh.  Very few businesses will come through with the same supply chains they started with.

While it’s incredibly disruptive, it’s also an amazing opportunity to fully redesign your supply chain for the better.

Recent modern slavery laws and consumer awareness meant we entered COVID-19 with a growing collective consciousness about the murky layers in our supply chains.  COVID-19 has worsened the conditions for many.  Victims of modern slavery are excluded from adequate health care, have further constraints put on already restricted movement and face discrimination. 

On top of that farmers and factory workers in the developing world are facing harsher employment conditions, or no job at all.  The ILO’s recent report on COVID-19’s economic impacts, estimates that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy (almost half of the global workforce) are in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed.  Let’s not let this become the new normal. 

This year, all businesses turning over $100 million in Australia must prepare a modern slavery statement (we’ve written about it here, here, here and here). Rather than disclosing your current modern slavery risks, why not remove them? Use this crisis as a kickstart to consider if your business causes, contributes or can be linked to modern slavery and other human rights violations.

The new normal?

Vigilance is important now more than ever.  In all likelihood, you’re in the market for new suppliers – this time around, why not contract for the better?  Re-think business models from the ground up.  A transparent, robust supply chain and comprehensive modern slavery statement gives you a leg up in becoming a supplier to government or big businesses who need to report.  The same goes for consumers who want to know you are accountable to the vulnerable people your business impacts.  

We are here to help, investigate, strategize and create better supply chains with you.  Here are some jumping off points:

  1. Maintain supplier relationships and communication.  Understand cost or other production pressures your suppliers are facing.  This understanding will help you recognize alternative supply arrangements, plus the information you receive will assist you with your business’s risk modelling.
     
  2. Collaborate with suppliers, workers, business peers, investors, civil society and peak bodies. Keep worker rights, safety and dignity at the front of mind so you can identify approaches to protect and support vulnerable workers.  Be diligent about engaging on a human level, as well as a business level.
     
  3. Use the power of your dollar to contract with suppliers you know are good…or to incentivise others to improve.  If enough of us take that approach, then the new normal becomes a market of competitive suppliers who market themselves on the good of their business.
     
  4. Make personal purchasing decisions with consideration for human rights, not just price and convenience.  The fashion industry’s #wewearaustralian campaign was a hugely successful call out to consumers to be mindful in their purchasing decisions and the popularity of repair programs from brands like Nudie, Birkenstock and Patagonia show consumers (and business) care about more than price.
     
  5. Consider the impact your RRP is having.  It is simply not possible to sell a $10 t-shirt without some form of exploitation occurring in your supply chain.  Adjusting price points to account for ethical production means completely rethinking your target markets and your marketing strategy (like this fast fashion rebirth).  In a radically different future all goods are valued and priced because they are produced without exploitation (of people and the planet) rather than the most significant metric of value being a cheap price.  
At the moment unfortunately all of this remains a choice.  It isn’t law.  We think Australia should support more robust modern slavery legislation.  While the NSW Modern Slavery Act (not yet in force) penalises a person for not submitting a proper statement, the Commonwealth legislation doesn’t.  Nor does it create an independent anti-slavery commissioner with the authority and resources to oversee compliance. 

We think government should seize the opportunity to implement real consequences for those complicit in modern slavery.  What better time than now, when companies are able to embed compliance in the rebuild.
Why not legislate for fines to be imposed on those who:

  •  do not submit a proper statement (not just in NSW);
  •  do not disclose modern slavery in their supply chain; and
  •  even better (and wilder) yet, enter into a supply chain arrangement which they know, or should know, uses people in slavery.
Now is the time to improve the integrity and quality of your supply chain while protecting vulnerable workers, and your business from modern slavery.  Positively aligning purpose and profit can't only apply during the good times.
Creators and contributors

Kiera Peacock
Senior Associate

Email Kiera

Felicia Lal 
Senior Associate

Email Fee

Emilie Blake
Lawyer

Email Emilie

Justin Cudmore
Partner

Email Justin

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Marque Lawyers · Level 4, 343 George Street · Sydney, NSW 2000 · Australia 

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