It is sobering to think of the conversations going on in Boardrooms right now. Caught between an incontrovertible IPCC report, on the one hand, credible approaches from those like RethinkX on the other, and under the unforgiving gaze of Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, and increasingly, the rest of us.
I can imagine all aspects of the Kübler Ross cycle appearing like the horsemen of the apocalypse. Denial of the problem, Anger and Blame. Negotiation as they point to the greenwash statements done by agencies. Depression as they realise this means them and Acceptance of the problem because they cannot deny it. Schadenfreude will be rife.
None of that matters because now is not the time for reparations, no matter how egregious some of the actions may have been. Reparations will not cure the problem – behaviours will.
In the end, the problem belongs to all of us. We buy what the corporates sell, from cheap air travel to fast fashion to automobiles, all of whom have paid little more than lip service to the externalities they are responsible for.
And we have to make millions of small critical decisions. How we use our cars and what sort we run, where and how we travel on holiday, what we wear, how we heat our houses, what we eat.
CoVid has already exposed the fragility of extended supply chains, and what we are likely to face will make that seem minor.
We will all be paying the price as insurance prices rise, whole areas become uninhabitable, and travel gets disrupted. Whilst we are affected in the UK, others are far more exposed, and mass movement of populations will not pass us by.
We cannot afford the cult of the independent individual that the last fifty years have encouraged. What we face requires not just collaboration but generous collaboration. We will have to recognise that we are not separate from nature but part of it and remember that our abuse of the natural world is what has got us here.
That’s the bad news. But, there is also good news. Whilst we know that what we have been doing is unsustainable, we have ignored it. It has perpetuated and exaggerated massive levels of inequality and unfairness. That will now have to change. We will have to recognise that we cannot buy the support we need; it has to be earned in other ways – through recognition, respect and shared effort.
We need to connect to each other, our businesses, and our environment and have very different conversations to the functional, transactional, performance-based business meetings we are used to.
Conversations will have to bring in far more than logic and reflect hopes, fears and other feelings that define our lives. As a result, we will have to deal with uncertainty and many surprises, which will require a trusted community’s strength. That is what we have to build.
These will be testing, creative conversations as we face leaving behind what we have been taking for granted. Convening and leading these conversations is a fundamental skill – handling conflict and bringing people together around emerging ideas that have no precedent.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is that we have no enemy to defeat other than ourselves. And we have no choice other than to start today.