For the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to be durable and resilient, a return to ‘business as usual’ and environmentally destructive investment patterns and activities must be avoided. Unchecked, global environmental emergencies such as climate change and biodiversity loss could cause social and economic damages far larger than those caused by COVID-19. To avoid this, economic recovery packages should be designed to “build back better”. This means doing more than getting economies and livelihoods quickly back on their feet. Recovery policies also need to trigger investment and behavioural changes that will reduce the likelihood of future shocks and increase society’s resilience to them when they do occur. Central to this approach is a focus on well-being and inclusiveness. Other key dimensions for assessing whether recovery packages can “build back better” include alignment with long-term emission reduction goals, factoring in resilience to climate impacts, slowing biodiversity loss and increasing circularity of supply chains. In practice, well-designed recovery policies can cover several of these dimensions at once, such as catalysing the shift towards accessibility-based mobility systems, and investing in low-carbon and decentralised electricity systems.