In the first few months of 2021, there’s already been a steady stream of calls for reimagining our current economic model to pave a better way forward. Scientists, academics and activists have been pushing a more inclusive and sustainable agenda for decades. Now, we’re finally seeing corporate executives, investors and entrepreneurs start to champion this vision or — at the very least — acknowledge that a step change is needed.
Why now? The past year for one. 2020 revealed, beyond doubt, that the climate emergency is no longer an obscure issue for scientists to sort out. It’s here. The next few years are critical and there’s no time to waste. Businesses need to be bold and double down on climate action — now!
Playing the long game in a system that thrives on short-termism.
Change, however, is never easy — because it means stepping into the unknown, making daring decisions, going against the status quo and profoundly changing the way we do business. In the years since COP21, we’ve seen and heard from hundreds of corporate sustainability champions across industries just how difficult true transformation can be.
Often, the biggest challenge these changemakers face in putting their ambitious agendas into action: playing the long game in a system that thrives on short-termism.
It’s not necessarily that businesses don’t recognize the value of sustainability — many are acutely aware of the myriad of financial and non-financial benefits it brings to the table. And they’re on board, encouraging internal stakeholders to define a new way forward.
The reason sustainability efforts so often fall short or stall out is that businesses aren’t creating the right environment for them to really take off. Sustainability champions are often expected to completely transform their companies while operating within the constraints of a financial system and business practices that are at odds with — and actively undermine — long-term value creation. It’s an uphill battle that they’re fighting alone.
It takes a lot of courage to push for positive change under these circumstances. And we need more of it — from insiders in all departments and at all levels, and in particular from those in a position to drive real transformation: board members, shareholders, investors, CFOs and other C-level executives.
Leaders need to have the courage to:
- amplify the voices of and advocate for those driving the sustainability agenda,
- enter into meaningful dialogue with changemakers, acknowledging the roadblocks they face, and
- actively work alongside them to break down barriers.
Sustainable transformation is possible and within our power. Visionary individuals brave enough to question, challenge and redefine the status quo within their organizations will be the ones to make it happen. But they need others to stand alongside them, to help them remove obstacles, streamline efforts, create better, more effective solutions faster and keep the momentum going.
Who in your company needs to hear this?
Talk to us about the challenges you’re facing as a changemaker and how to inspire others to find the courage to take action.