Change Bad, Or Change Back

I have a confession to make: I’m like many of you, probably most of you. I struggle to keep despair about stuff going on in the world away from the door, despite it rearing up nearly every day. Climate change, in particular, poses massive challenges – probably the greatest ever known to humanity. And it’s only taken about the last 150-175 years of business as usual (or the escalating use of newer and ever-more destructive production and consumption practices) for us to screw things up royally on this planet.

And that’s actually both good and bad news for all of us. Because awareness and action are key and we’ve received our ‘wake-up call’. Because it’s not too late. Help is available, guidance exists to help you chart a change in course for your organization – to be one of those that leads instead of loses from the monumental changes coming from climate change.

Climate change? I’m too busy (and worried) to think about that…

When someone mentions climate change and commerce in one sentence, I can’t suppress that lingering stab of doubt. Know what I’m talking about?

Despite–or maybe because of–my long experience in global business coupled with newfound knowledge gained as part of the all-volunteer, global team that conceived and produced The Carbon Almanac, I have to constantly fight against those pesky negative thoughts. To resist the urge to ignore the future and just enjoy what I have now, consequences be damned. But when I feel complacency looming, I come back to the only workable reality: I must doggedly shield my awareness and optimism from the shadow images of doom & gloom, increasing regulatory scrutiny, rising costs, unachievable targets, supply chain minefields, and diminishing profits. And hassles, lots of hassles on the road ahead for any company or enterprise undertaking the challenge to confront climate change…honestly.

Because…make no mistake: the negativity about climate change and business is a trap. For most organizations it’s a fallacy, an excuse, and interestingly, it’s really nothing new. 

In fact, change, of any kind, has always posed challenges and choices for people and for the places where they work–enterprises of all types, for-profit, non-profit, governments, non-governmental organizations. And viewed in a vacuum of homogenized, cultured consistency, change can certainly be viewed as “bad for business”, because ‘shaking things up’ threatens all of that carefully designed structure, that well-defined workflow, those finely-tuned operational and employment models, that symbiotic service and support process, and those closely-crafted marketing and sales campaigns. Oh, and that stream of steady profits.

Change is bad…or maybe Change back?

So let’s talk about those profits…Here’s a challenge for your organization, whatever its form: Stop thinking of the negatives and what you have to lose through confronting climate and societal change. Instead, start imagining how much “change back” you’ll receive from this transformation to new ways of running your enterprise. Consider the ample social, reputational, and yes – financial – dividends that will accrue from the investments made, and the momentum your organization will realize as you reposition it as a carbon-aware, forward-facing power for positive change in the way business is done.

That’s a great start to make on a successful sustainability journey. But you have to start. And it best begins with – not surprisingly – authentic conversations on changing your course to the proper path, which will progress to informed and ultimately profitable action, if you let them.

A sensible path to sustainability and success

If you choose to lead and seek the ‘change back’ from the investment your organization will be making into cleaner, environmentally conscious and more socially progressive and responsible operation, it will be worth it. Count on it. Gain from it.

·         Rather than focus on all of the pitfalls you can imagine along the way, consider instead the dividends that will accrue from joining together with those who care about and will benefit from an authentic examination of your organization’s environmental and social health – and what needs to be done to improve it for a more prosperous, more satisfying and ultimately sustainable future.

·         Engage with your managers, employees, suppliers, customers, investors, and yes, your community – no matter how large or how wide your sphere of interested observers or active participants is, who buys from you or provides raw materials or support to help deliver your products and services to the world. 

Our Earthwork Collective team coined a great new term to describe this treasured group, calling it your enterprise’s Circle of Responsibility (CORe) – defined as all of those people and entities with strong interest in your progress, investment or partnership in your operations, or who produce, use, are or would be impacted by the products and services offered by your enterprise. Like many things, change starts at the CORe.

·         Talk together about the sustainability journey you will undertake together, and the part each of your CORe partners will play in making that path a successful one, not just for your organization, but for the people and world around you. And the world will notice those who stand out – and stand up – for and with them to confront climate and societal challenges . And that’s where real, lasting profitability will emerge.

Small business can and will lead positive change – for all

It’s a common mistake to think that it’s mostly the ‘big corporations’, the multinationals, the governments that must lead the way in this effort to restore environmental balance. Sure, they’ll play a big part. 

But true change in the ways business is conducted, in reducing the damage from carbon emissions will require contributions from us all. And lest anyone forget: Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) drive much of the world’s employment and commerce and communities. They are central to this fight, and their connected actions are critically important. This is a challenge that must be tackled together.

We’ve all got our parts to play. There will be dividends of unimaginable prosperity that will accrue to SMEs and other nonprofit, governmental and non-governmental organizations that choose to ‘get it right’ together, to seek “change back” from authentically confronting climate change – and changing their ways of doing business. 

Confronting climate reality is a ‘we’ thing

The best news of all is that you’re not alone, many of us who’ve decided to tackle climate-related challenges head-on and are aiming for more equitable business and working models will be right by your side. We’ll be there to help you. You just have to ask.

Because change to confront climate change is not bad, and we’ll all get ‘change back’, if we invest our time, our talents, our ideas and efforts authentically to transform the way we work, how we produce, and the resources we consume – and hopefully regenerate, renew or replace bad habits and practices with more environmentally friendly ones.

If not, well then, we are indeed facing doom and gloom. And which path we take is surely our individual and collective choice to make. What does logic tell you is the right thing to do?

Read the next post in our 11 part ESG Series:
Why does ESG Matter?


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