Here’s a post-COVID-19 roadmap to recovery

In a series of conversations, Fast Company Impact Council members described achievable changes that could enable institutions and society to emerge from the pandemic as more sustainable, more adaptable, and more inclusive.

Here’s a post-COVID-19 roadmap to recovery
[Illustrations: Simone Noronha]

“Build Back Better” has been a rallying cry in the disaster recovery community for 15 years. What began as an exhortation to construct stronger buildings and roads following hurricanes and earthquakes has grown into a broader mandate: to make communities more resilient by revitalizing local economies while preserving natural resources. President Joe Biden has adopted the phrase, first as a campaign slogan and later as a name for his sweeping economic and infrastructure agenda.


But building back “better” feels like a vague and woefully inadequate directive. Communities are still confronting the COVID-19 health crisis while also wrestling with an uneven economic resurgence, racial and gender inequities, and the alarming rate of global warming that has led to one weather-related disaster after another. So we asked the Fast Company Impact Council—an invitation-only group of forward-thinking corporate and nonprofit leaders, CEOs, innovators, and founders—to help provide a clearer road map for recovery. In a series of conversations, they highlighted achievable changes that could enable institutions and society to emerge from the pandemic as more sustainable, more adaptable, and more inclusive.

Corporations and fast-growth companies are well positioned to lead the charge. They’ve moved from pledging to address racism and sexism in their own ranks—which they’ll admit is still a work in progress—to using corporate power and scale to close opportunity gaps that only widened during the pandemic. “Building, fostering, and advancing a pipeline of diverse talent and teams is key to an equitable recovery,” says Kathryn Guarini, chief information officer at IBM, which is partnering with historically Black colleges and universities and nonprofits to offer skills training and jobs. Jennifer Johnson, CEO of asset manager Franklin Templeton, says that the company can support, through its mutual funds and other instruments, investments for a new generation of companies working to increase “the attraction, recruitment, and development of underrepresented communities.”

Newer companies say that they can address social ills in a long-term way by building sustainability and trust into their products from the outset. Sridhar Ramaswamy, cofounder and CEO of Neeva, is developing an ad-free private search engine—in contrast with big tech companies that monetize users’ data. Stuart Landesberg, cofounder and CEO of natural goods startup Grove Collaborative, is trying to eliminate single-use plastic packaging, which harms the environment and wildlife. As Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO of clean beauty brand Beautycounter notes, “Today you have companies that, in their DNA, are trying to solve problems in the world—the business itself is an engine for change.”


Building back with impact will also force rivals to work together, says Patrick Criteser, president and CEO of Tillamook County Creamery Association, a farmer-owned cooperative that markets cheeses and other dairy products. “Making needed progress in sustainable supply chains and food waste is going to require partnership and collaboration among historical competitors,” he says. Impact Council members, perhaps appreciative of the way the Federal Reserve stepped in to shore up business lending and other markets during the pandemic, are actually calling for more government intervention in areas such as education and childcare, and some are seeking additional opportunities to partner with government.

It may seem counterintuitive that businesses would want to partner with lawmakers and regulators in order to build back with impact, but Brad Lukanic, CEO of architecture and engineering firm CannonDesign, says we should let history be our guide. “The 1930s Works Progress Administration focused on federally driven public projects, with many of their aspects enduring to this day. [The more recent] vaccine deployment highlights positive outcomes when industry and government work together for a singular purpose,” he says. “As we think about how infrastructure is being defined today, we should not lose sight of past successes or the opportunities for solving even greater challenges in the years ahead.”


Jean Accius
SVP, global thought leadership, AARP


Will Ahmed
Founder and CEO, Whoop

Cristiano Amon
CEO, Qualcomm



“Lack of reliable access to broadband meant 12 million American kids could not participate in remote learning. America needs [policies] that are technology neutral and support both fiber and mobile broadband.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Jesper Andersen
President and CEO, Infoblox

Shellye Archambeau
Board director, Verizon; author, Unapologetically Ambitious

Penny Baldwin
SVP and CMO, Qualcomm


Maryam Banikarim
Head of marketing, Nextdoor; cofounder, NYCNext

Jon Banner
EVP, communications, PepsiCo; president, PepsiCo Foundation

Kara Medoff Barnett
Head of social impact marketing and strategy, First Republic Bank


“[We are] letting go of perfection while holding onto the pursuit of excellence. Audiences are interested in the humanity, not airbrushed perfection.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Bert Bean
CEO, Insight Global

Gail Becker
Founder and CEO, Caulipower

“The number of people who experience food insecurity in the U.S. is around 30 million. The number of people we can feed with food waste is, you guessed it, about 30 million. It’s not hard to figure out what needs to be done.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Joey Bergstein
CEO, Sabra


Robin Berzin
Founder and CEO, Parsley Health

Mary Bilbrey
Chief human resources officer, JLL

Leslie Blodgett
Creator and founding CEO, bareMinerals; author, Pretty Good Advice


Jason Blum
Founder and CEO, Blumhouse Productions

Neil Blumenthal
Cofounder and co-CEO, Warby Parker

Jeff Boutelle
CEO, Pharmavite


Caroline Brown
Managing director, Closed Loop Partners

Howard W. Buffett
Founder and president, Global Impact

Gretchen Buhlig
CEO, ASU Foundation


Tory Burch
Chief creative officer and executive chairman, Tory Burch

Andrea Carafa
Emergence Fellow, Stanford University; director, Blackstone Launchpad; Rachel Carson lecturer, University of California, Santa Cruz

Brie Carere
EVP and chief marketing and communications officer, FedEx


Rachel Carlson
Cofounder and CEO, Guild Education

Barie Carmichael
Batten Fellow, Darden Business School

Jean Case
Chair, National Geographic Society; CEO, Case Impact Network


Carolyn Cawley
President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation; SVP, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Niren Chaudhary
CEO, Panera Bread

“[We need] decisive action and bold innovation to address the humanitarian crises of discrimination and the climate emergency.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Gerald Chertavian
Founder and CEO, Year Up

Audrey Choi
CMO and chief sustainability officer, Morgan Stanley

Chirag Chotalia
Partner, Threshold Ventures

Edith Cooper
Cofounder, Medley

Frank Cooper 
CMO, BlackRock

LaVerne Council
CEO, Emerald One

Frederic Court
Managing partner, Felix Capital

Roger Crandall
Chairman, president, and CEO, MassMutual

Patrick Criteser
President and CEO, Tillamook County Creamery Association

Hasan Dandashly
President and CEO, Dematic

Jerri DeVard
Founder, Black Executive CMO Alliance

Kevin Dexter
President and COO, Fisher & Paykel Appliances

Richard Dickson
President and COO, Mattel

Rachel Drori
Founder and CEO, Daily Harvest

Craig Dubitsky
Founder, Hello Products; chief innovation strategist, Colgate-Palmolive

Phil Duncan
Chief design officer, Procter & Gamble

Jonathan Dunn
Senior partner, McKinsey & Company

Adnan Durrani
Founder and CEO, Saffron Road

Pedro Earp
Chief marketing and ZX Ventures officer, Anheuser-Busch InBev

Cindy Eckert
CEO, The Pink Ceiling; CEO, Sprout Pharmaceuticals

Tilman Ehrbeck
Global managing partner, Flourish Ventures

Alex Elias
Founder and CEO, Qloo

Abby Falik
Founder and CEO, Global Citizen Year

Andrew Farah
Founder and CEO, Density

David Fischer
Chief revenue officer, Facebook

Winston Fisher
Partner, Fisher Brothers; CEO, Area15

Celia Fleischaker
CMO, Verint

Alan Fleischmann
Founder, chairman, and CEO, Laurel Strategies

Lidia Fonseca
Chief digital and technology officer, Pfizer

Kathryn Guarnini

“We need to embrace a new model of collaboration, built on empathy, shared experiences, and an understanding that we are more than just our day jobs.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Dave Gilboa
Cofounder and co-CEO, Warby Parker

Aditi Javeri Gokhale
President and chief commercial officer, investment product and services, Northwestern Mutual

Evan Goldberg
Founder and EVP, Oracle NetSuite

Melanie Goldey
COO and CFO, TMRW Life Sciences

Kara Goldin
Founder and CEO, Hint

Alex Gonzalez
CIO, Metro Atlanta Chamber

Laura González-Estéfani
Founder, CEO, and general partner, TheVentureCity

Jon Goss
Chief brand officer, NeueHouse

Jennifer Gottlieb
Global president, Real Chemistry

Guru Gowrappan
Former CEO, Yahoo and Verizon Media; senior adviser, Apollo and Yahoo

“Destigmatizing mental health has been, and will remain, core to our work and my personal mission as CEO.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Kirsten Green
Founder, Forerunner Ventures

Jerilan Greene
Global chief communications and public affairs officer, Yum! Brands; chairman and CEO, Yum! Foundation

“Businesses, governments, and institutions must fully participate together to create the kind of resilient economy, planet, and society that can positively serve . . . the next generation.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Joanna Griffiths
Founder and CEO, Knix

Kathryn Guarini

Alison Haljun
Cofounder and president, Kinship

Sarah Harden
CEO, Hello Sunshine

Scott Harrison
Founder and CEO, Charity: water

Daniel Heaf
VP, Nike Direct, Nike

Michael Hermann
President and CEO, Wicked Cow Studios

Michelle Johnston Holthaus
EVP and chief revenue officer, Intel

Jeff Huber
CEO, Home Instead

Arianna Huffington
Founder and CEO, Thrive Global

Barbara Humpton
President and CEO, Siemens Corp.

Jolie Hunt
Founder and CEO, Hunt & Gather

Jessica Iclisoy
Founder and CEO, California Baby

Laura Ipsen
President and CEO, Ellucian

Leena Jain
CMO, Coravin

Andrea James
SVP, corporate strategy and investor relations, Axon

Josh James
Founder and CEO, Domo

Jeremy Jauncey
Founder and CEO, Beautiful Destinations

Carolina Garcia Jayaram
Founding executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation

Natasha Jen
Partner, Pentagram

Jennifer Johnson
President and CEO, Franklin Templeton

“I firmly believe that the inclusion of colleagues with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and identities leads to better decision-making and problem-solving across our business.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Hubert Joly
Senior lecturer, Harvard Business School; former CEO, Best Buy; author, The Heart of Business

Paul Judge
Managing partner, Panoramic Ventures

Carol Juel
EVP and CIO, Synchrony

Michael Kanaan
Director of operations, MIT-U.S. Air Force Artificial Intelligence Accelerator; author, T-Minus AI

Rob Katz
Chairman and CEO, Vail Resorts

Seth Kaufman
President and CEO, Moët Hennessy North America

Brad Keywell
Founder and CEO, Uptake Technologies

Ayub Khattak
CEO, Cue Health

Joe Kiani
Founder and CEO, Masimo

Peter Kjellberg
CMO and head of global verticals, Dometic Group

Angie Klein
CEO, Visible

Tim Kobe
Founder and CEO, Eight

Tom Kolditz
Director, Doerr Institute for New Leaders, Rice University

Mike Konzen
Chairman, PGAV Destinations

Joe Korngiebel
CTO, Ceridian

Jill Kouri
CMO, HCL Technologies

Robin Koval
President and CEO, Truth Initiative

Margery Kraus
Founder and executive chairman, APCO Worldwide

Ellen Kullman
President and CEO, Carbon

René Lacerte
Founder and CEO,

Stuart Landesberg
Cofounder and CEO, Grove Collaborative

Mary Beth Laughton
President and CEO, Athleta

Aaron Levie
Cofounder, chairman, and CEO, Box

Jonathan Levine
Founder and CEO, Master & Dynamic

Oliver Libby
Managing partner, H/L Ventures

Stephanie Linnartz
President, Marriott International

Brad Lukanic
CEO, CannonDesign

“Training and investment in our people are key to being at the forefront of creative solutions for tomorrow.” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Jeff Maggioncalda
CEO, Coursera

Lisa Mann
Managing director and CMO, Raines

Tereza Manukian
Chief security officer,

Clay Marsh
VP and executive dean, WVU Health Sciences, West Virginia University

Andrew Masanto
Cofounder, Cofoundant

Alli McCartney
Financial advisor, UBS Financial Services

Peter McGuinness
President and COO, Chobani

Dion McKenzie
Founder and chairman, Colorintech

Leila McKenzie-Delis
CEO, DIAL Global

Susan McPherson
Founder and CEO, McPherson Strategies

Chris Meledandri
CEO, Illumination Entertainment

Michael Mendenhall
SVP and chief marketing and communications officer, TriNet

Douglas Merritt
President and CEO, Splunk

Jonathan Mildenhall
Chair, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand; CMO, Dave

Andrew Morse
EVP and chief digital officer, CNN Worldwide

Eric Mosley
CEO, Workhuman

Ann Mukherjee
Chairman and CEO, Pernod Ricard North America

Rakesh Narayana
Global director of new ventures, Reckitt Benckiser

Jonathan Neman
Cofounder and CEO, Sweetgreen

Joseph “McG” Nichol
Founder, Wonderland Sound and Vision

David Novak
Founder and CEO, David Novak Leadership

Lionel Ohayon
Founder and CEO, Icrave

Linda Ong
Founder and CEO, Cultique

Primo Orpilla
Cofounder and principal, Studio O+A

Dawn Ostroff
Chief content and advertising business officer, Spotify

Will Packer
CEO, Will Packer Productions and Will Packer Media

Deidre Paknad
Cofounder and CEO, WorkBoard

Ryan Pandya
Cofounder and CEO, Perfect Day

Kristin Peck
CEO, Zoetis

Steven Wolfe Pereira
Cofounder and CEO, Encantos

Christin Powell
CEO, Kinship

Gigi Pritzker
CEO, Madison Wells

Tony Prophet
Chief equality and recruiting officer, Salesforce

Matthew Putman
Cofounder and CEO, Nanotronics

Krish Ramakrishnan
Cofounder and executive chairman, BlueJeans by Verizon

Sridhar Ramaswamy
Cofounder and CEO, Neeva

Gregg Renfrew
Founder and CEO, Beautycounter

Jana Rich
Founder and CEO, Rich Talent Group

Melinda Richter
Global head, JLabs, J&J Innovation, Johnson & Johnson

David Rock
Cofounder and CEO, NeuroLeadership Institute

Pasquale “Pat” Romano
CEO, ChargePoint

Deb Roy
Director, MIT Center for Constructive Communication, MIT Media Lab

Katica Roy
CEO, Pipeline Equity

Clayton Ruebensaal
EVP, Global B2B Marketing, American Express

Tom Ryan
President and CEO, ViacomCBS Streaming, and cofounder, Pluto TV, ViacomCBS

Brent Saunders
Former chairman and CEO, Allergan

Luke Saunders
CEO, Farmer’s Fridge

Laurie Schalow
Chief corporate affairs and food safety officer, Chipotle Mexican Grill

Kern Schireson
Chairman and CEO, Known Global

Pete Schlampp
EVP, product development, Workday

Gayle Schueller
SVP and chief sustainability officer, 3M

Dan Schulman
CEO, PayPal

Sebastian Schulze
Cofounder and CEO, Fit Analytics

Liz Hilton Segel
Global leader, industry practices, McKinsey & Company

Larraine Segil
Chairman and CEO, Exceptional Women Awardees Foundation

Dana Settle
Cofounder and partner, Greycroft

“The more that new brands do in terms of sustainability and inclusion, the more [big brands] will have to come along” [Illustration: Simone Noronha]
Nandan Sheth
Head of Carat and global digital commerce, Fiserv

Douglas Sieg
Managing partner, Lord Abbett

Pier Luigi Sigismondi
President, Dole Packaged Foods

Karen Silverman
Founder and CEO, The Cantellus Group

Ikdeep Singh
President, Mars Pet Nutrition North America

Shamina Singh
President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, and EVP, sustainability, Mastercard

Julie Smolyansky
President and CEO, Lifeway Foods

Ramon Soto
SVP and chief marketing and communications officer, Northwell

Vincent Stanley
Director of philosophy, Patagonia

Jon Stein
Founder and chairman, Betterment

Dan Streetman
CEO, Tibco Software

Adam Sussman
President, Epic Games

Ally Svenson
Cofounder and chief purpose officer, Mod Pizza

William Taylor
Founding editor, Fast Company

Jennifer Tescher
President and CEO, Financial Health Network

Jan Tharp
President and CEO, The Bumble Bee Seafood

Sudarsan Thattai
CIO, Lineage Logistics

Colleen Theis
COO, The Orchard

Jay Theodore
CTO, enterprise and AI, Esri

Alicia Tillman
Former CMO, SAP

Jeff Titterton
COO, Zendesk

Dara Treseder
SVP and head of global marketing and communications, Peloton

Tiger Tyagarajan
CEO, Genpact

Lisa Utzschneider
CEO, Integral Ad Science

James Vincent
CEO, Fndr

Julie Wainwright
Founder and CEO, The RealReal

Maynard Webb
Founder, Webb Investment Network

Judy Wert
Cofounder and president, executive search, Wert&Co

Sherrie Westin
President, Sesame Workshop

Barbara Whye
VP, inclusion and diversity, Apple

Bryony Winn
SVP and chief strategy officer, Anthem

Ian Wishingrad
Cofounder, Three Wishes Foods

Kylie Wright-Ford
CEO, The RepTrak

Frank Yang
Founder and CEO, Simplehuman

Forest Young
Senior director, global brand design, Rivian

Frank Young
President, vertical market software solutions, Global Payments

Shelley Zalis
CEO, The Female Quotient

David Zasada
VP, education and corporate responsibility, Intuit

Michelle Zatlyn
Cofounder, president, and COO, Cloudflare