12 December 2015. COP 21 just came to an end and the future seemed bright. Governments recognised the fundamental need for a shift in mindset and behaviour to tackle the threat (and reality) of climate change. Even the most reluctant countries, which are (not really surprising) both the two most polluting nations as well as the two largest economies in the world, acknowledged their responsibility to contribute to the shift. Both China and the USA ratified the treaty after years of rejecting any international treaty on climate change (Phillips, Harvey, & Yuhas, 2016). Enthusiasm, confidence and the desire to make this “world a better world” were palpable. The dream of making “the impossible possible” (i.e. sustaining our planet in its current state while countering major economic and social issues) was a step nearer.
March 2017. What happened? Within a little more than 12 months, the energy which raised from the meeting in Paris seems to have vanished. Terrorism, political instability, the rise of populism, etc. are all “good reasons” explaining the change in public awareness. However, (and I want to apologise at this stage for the next few sentences as they may not be completely politically correct) I am convinced that both political, as well as business leaders, should reconsider their own responsibility in this phenomenon. Yes, national security is essential. Yes, economic growth is needed. Yes, companies should secure their competitive future. BUT how important is the welfare of one country, one company, or the political survival of one individual, one party, or one self’s career development when put into perspective with the bigger picture? Phrasing the question in a more personal way: how important is my own convenience, my own “career path”? Would I be willing to renounce pursuing convenience and show real leadership by taking the more complicated road? This questions raised in my mind during the WBCSD’s plenary session two weeks ago. The different speakers made the point clear: businesses have in their possession tools, e.g. the SDGs themselves, which would enable them to contribute constructing a more sustainable environment in key strategic areas (food, energy, cities & materials). Driving those solutions and scaling them up should be at the core of their strategy. However, this cannot be achieved by going “the easy way”, by “following the flow” and by being driven by convenience and unsustainable opportunities (which are burgeoning those days).
At the centre of this challenge is collaboration (WBCSD, n.d.), which is by its very nature complicated and difficult. Therefore, the case is quite straightforward: it is all about leadership. About keeping going forward even if there is resistance, even if the possibility to go right, left or even backwards are present and extremely tempting. And as mentioned in my previous blog the wanted results will not be matched if the “leadership of the future” (my generation!) is not educated in a holistic manner (which is not the case in the actual state!)
With those thoughts, I wish you a nice week and, hopefully, a good Easter break,
Until the next time,
Phillips, T., Harvey, F., & Yuhas, A. (2016, September 3). Breakthrough as US and China agree to ratify Paris climate deal. Retrieved April 9, 2017, from The Guardian : https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/03/breakthrough-us-china-agree-ratify-paris-climate-change-deal
WBCSD. (n.d.). Our Approach . Retrieved April 9 , 2017, from World Business Council for Sustainable Development : http://www.wbcsd.org/Overview/Our-approach