Marbral Advisory’s Change Architect, Rhona Perkins, looks at the global state of environmental and social crisis, our desire to change and how Jersey businesses can start their journey towards authentic sustainability.
Are you a good person? I like to think I am. It is increasingly clear however, from reports by the World Wildlife Fund to the World Economic Forum and documentaries like Seaspiracy, that our collective impact on the planet is disastrous. Human consumption is putting pressure on the Earth’s systems and threatening to breach planetary boundaries. It currently takes the Earth 1.8 years to replenish the resources we use in a year. This is, in a word, unsustainable.
At a basic level, sustainability means adopting positive change so that our activities have a neutral or positive effect on the environment and society. It’s clear in Jersey that most people care very deeply about their Island. Therefore, there is a real opportunity to embrace sustainability here and make good environmental choices as citizens.
The right environment to save the environment
If finance provides the fuel, business is the engine and government is the steering. This analogy shows that each of these components has a part to play in driving our economy to be more sustainable. We have already seen an EU level steer in the financial markets via the EU SFDR and Taxonomy regulations. At a local level, the Jersey Financial Services Commission are consulting on sustainable finance regulations.
While Government policy is often criticised for short-termism, businesses have the benefit of longer time horizons, especially if they can look beyond quarterly reporting. The opportunity to step up and meet demand for sustainable products and the long-term value this can add to their balance sheets is starting to drive change. In the real economy, these changes might be new products or the integration of circular economy concepts. To achieve authentic sustainability however, and avoid ‘greenwashing’, sustainability must be at the heart of what the business does. Rather than being a bolt-on, it must change how the whole vehicle runs.
A new perspective on ‘adapt or die’
Organisational culture is fundamental to meaningful change. The tone from the top is important, as with any change, but businesses must be adaptable and dynamic right the way through. The culture within organisations should encourage sustainability innovation and businesses must recognise the power of their people. For different businesses, this might mean sustainability champions, additional staff training or embedding sustainability into performance measures.
Finally, businesses and their people must not only be open to, but must seek out collaboration. It is essential that businesses recognise that sustainability offers opportunities that reach far beyond economics, and that the benefits are not part of a 'zero-sum game'. This might mean working with other businesses in a ‘pre-competitive collaboration’ to reduce waste; it might mean sharing ideas and questions via business networks like the IoD Jersey Environment Sub-committee; and it might mean partnering with an NGO to attain a certain goal. It is important to recognise that it is communication and collaboration which drives progress.
System wide, radical change
Overshoot Day for the UK this year is 19 May. This is the day on which it is calculated that if the whole world used resources at the same rate as the UK, demand would have gone beyond the resources the Earth can regenerate in that year. I think that the people of Jersey are starting to understand this call to action and businesses are beginning to meet the demand for authentic sustainability. Albert Einstein said: ‘The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation’. What is required is system wide, radical change and we all have a part to play.
Rhona Perkins works for leading change management company Marbral Advisory, which is headquartered in Jersey. Rhona holds the Business Sustainability Management qualification with the Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership (CISL). Her training was supported by Marbral Advisory. If you are interested in a career in Change, Project Management or Business Analysis, get in touch with: firstname.lastname@example.org