Sustainable Business: 1 – Are we truly grasping the fundamental shift in our economic reality?

The pandemic has presented some of us with the time and others the necessity to rethink our priorities and values. It has given many of us a renewed gratitude for the natural environment, an acute awareness of our own fragility, and shocking evidence of the impact of inequality in our society, with higher infection and death in deprived communities and amongst ethnic minorities. It has sharpened our sense of urgency in tackling sustainability – as customers and business leaders.

Climate Change remains the number one long-term risk for businesses, as Larry Fink CEO of Blackrock has highlighted for the second year running in his annual letter to CEO’s.

With fosil fuels now causing 1 in 5 deaths and significant savings to be made by reducing fuel consumption and waste, Climate change risk mitigation and management has never been more crucial.

Customers are increasingly seeking sustainable products and services, and some businesses have seized the commercial opportunities for efficiency, innovation and brand enhancement that a clear sustainability strategy offers.

We know that SME’s will be key to delivering the innovation and adaptation required to deliver the UK Net Zero target by 2050. They make up about 99% of UK businesses, and are the grass roots engines of change.

Yet while many SME’s have recognised the challenge, (and some are leading the way) are SME’s equipped to manage the competing demands on their time and attention to deliver the scale of change needed? Are we truly grasping the fundamental shift in our economic reality, do we understand what this means for leaders, and can we establish a clear and simple route map to deliver the long term change needed?

 

  1. Are we truly grasping the fundamental shift in our economic reality

Our currently accepted economic model, and the structures, behaviours, and governance processes accompanying it, were developed over a 100 years ago – with a focus on GDP and a faith that growth would continue with infinite natural resources.

This faith was misplaced. The impact of climate change and pollution is well documented We have also witnessed the harmful impacts on society of widening inequality. These impacts can be environmental as well as human – and reducing inequality can be a powerful driver of carbon reduction. Recent research shows that educating girls is more effective in the climate emergency than many green technologies. https://sdgs.un.org/goals recognise the importance of equity, and the inter-relationship between the two.

Economist Kate Raworth’s concept of  the doughnut economy  helps us to visualise these challenges, recognising that the earth’s resources are finite, and that we need to balance our use of available resources. If we use too much, we endanger the survival of our planet, if we use resources unfairly (some receiving too little) we create human suffering and instability. The challenge is to keep within the ring of the doughnut.

Understanding and accepting this reality presents businesses with a framework to expand its thinking and focus beyond short term profit.

 

In next weeks #OoomphSnippets we look at Understanding and communicating the business benefits.

 

If this series has inspired you to learn more and you are in Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, or the Warrington council areas, come along to the University of Chester’s Sustainable Growth Bootcamp – Big Impact Small Footprint: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sustainable-growth-bootcamp-big-impact-small-footprint-tickets-130582237989

 

 

Words by Sallie Bridgen – Ruby Star Associate…

 

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