21 things I learned about sustainability
Just finished the Cambridge University sustainability leadership course. It’s like an MSc, just crammed into an absurdly short period of time.
At the beginning many become a little depressed by the scale of the challenge but most finish the course more optimistic.
This is my 21 point summary. It could have been more but 21 seemed like a good number. This won’t save you the course fee but hopefully it will make you want to want to find out more. (if you want a version with links let me know)
1. The planet has a problem. It’s been obvious for a lot longer than you think.
2. It will cost more to fix than avoid.
3. For lots of people (and nations), environmental considerations are secondary to the basics, like food, housing, health, day to day survival.
4. People are unresponsive to doomsday narratives.
5. Environment. Ecological diversity. Economic inclusion. Profit. Consumerism. Materialism. Growth. Financial short-termism. Limited natural resources. Climate change. Sustainability. It is all part of an interconnected system.
6. We need to redefine growth and productivity for the world we want to live in.
7. Free markets won’t solve our challenges. They are inefficient, inequality is baked in, environmental impact is not accounted for.
8. The solution demands collaboration between governments, competitors and regulators, across borders and along supply chains. (a bit like the pandemic)
9. The purpose of business is a more important conversation than the purpose of a business.
10. Financial markets are positioning themselves as ‘enforcers of the green order’. It is probably going to hurt soon.
11. Sustainability offers a source of competitive advantage but too many businesses are playing sustainability. It is probably going to hurt soon.
12. Businesses will transform quicker if sustainability is part of the business strategy to increase profits, revenue or market share.
13. Or to put it alternatively, change will be slow in your business if you rely on a moral or ethical argument because not everyone cares as much as you do.
14. Businesses can’t tick all 17 sustainability boxes, so focus on what you can change, explain where it is difficult, and what is going to take time. That is corporate responsibility.
15. Marketing has an important role to play. It can make the topic and your commitments understandable to your customers.
16. Your biggest risk is unintentional greenwashing.
17. We need to change perceptions about re-cycling. Consumerism, materialism, and a love of brand new got us here in the first place.
18. Assuming sustainable products are more expensive and sub-standard betrays a lack of imagination. Embrace sustainability by design, innovation is what businesses do well.
19. The circular economy and regenerative business models need to be taught to every child, not just a few A level and university students.
20. A future offering lower energy costs, cleaner environment and greater social equality doesn’t sound at all bad.
21. Listen to ‘Wear Sun Screen’ again.