My journey to Green-Capitalism
"there is no need for there to be a 'loser' between economic growth and environmental protection"
I have spent most of my professional life identifying the need for change in organisations then helping those organisations to make those changes. From turning around insolvent companies and integrating corporate acquisitions through to culture change programs on factory floors and in sales teams. Like most people deeply involved in business, my focus was on this quarter's profit, this month's sales, this week's cash flow. I paid scant regard to what was happening in the rest of the world, especially anything vaguely environmental.
This started to change when my family flew into Manchester airport in 2000 to join me in the UK. It was raining. Hardly surprising for Manchester. Over the next few months it continued to rain and there was more and more discussion on climate change. At the time I dismissed this, along with 'peak oil' and 'global warming', as fear mongering from people who should get a 'proper job'. Then in April 2001, it was announced that the previous 12 months had been the wettest in the UK since records began. And records began in the 17th Century. That caused me to wonder a wee bit. But only for a bit as I soon went back to my insular business world and stayed there, even when we returned to Australia to find ourselves in the middle of the 'hundred year drought'.
Then, in 2003 The Business Council of Australia invited me to join their working group that was preparing a range of scenarios for Australia in 20 years time. 'Aspire Australia 2025' was put together over 12 months by running workshops with seventy of the leading thinkers in Australia. We looked at every aspect of life in Australia. Our competitiveness, strategic defence, values and norms, our governance and our sustainability.
That experience triggered the start of my journey. A journey that was initially focussed on climate change for the more that I researched the arguments for and against, the more I came to the conclusion that this was a 'clear and present threat' to our quality of life. It also quickly became clear that, until the business community took the risk seriously, then we would always struggle to make the changes needed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. And here was where the nub of the problem was.
Business had great difficulty seeing how we could both, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and also maintain the economic growth that is so fundamental to their business success. In the same way that business saw the 20th Century as a battle between labour and capital, many now saw the 21st Century as being a battle between economic growth and environmental protection. Yet, there was no real 'loser' in the battle between labour and capital, so there is no need for there to be a 'loser' between economic growth and environmental protection.
Hence my promotion of Green-Capitalism. I write, I speak and I present on how we can have our cake and eat it too.
For those promoters of environmental protection who are cynical of capitalism, I would ask you to remember that capitalism has dragged millions of people around the world out of the miserable existence so well documented by Charles Dickens and that capitalism, properly motivated, can achieve rapid change in society.
For the promoters of economic growth who see environmentalists as a threat to our prosperity, I would ask you recognise we live on a planet of finite resources with a delicate ecosystem. The sooner we modify our business practices to use renewable resources without unnecessarily damaging our ecosystem, the more confident we can be that our prosperity can continue for our kids and grandkids.
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