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Sustainability, what can we hope from COP 26?

Blair Mcpherson
The United Nations 26th annual Climate Conference know simply as Cop 26 is the much published chance , some say last chance, for world leaders to make some serious meaningful commitments to tackle the imminent disaster that is climate change. What ever the out come in Glasgow, the success of any resulting strategies and targets will be down to the actions of organisations and individuals.
How serious are organisations about reducing their carbon footprint, putting sustainability above competitiveness, efficiency and profit? Should we view the creation of posts such as Chief sustainability officers and Chief impact officers as an indication that business is treating the issue seriously? Is this evidence that, to use the current buzz word, the C -Suite is on board. That is that the executive level ( CEO’s )  in organisations are going to make sustainability a priority, show real leadership and inject a sense of urgency not just fine sounding mission statements and policies.
We can hope but we need to learn the lessons from Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) . Despite the undeniable moral argument and evidence of a strong business case, despite fine sounding words in mission statements, detailed strategies, specific targets and robust monitoring arrangements many organisations haven’t gone much beyond well meaning aspirations.
So what lessons can we learn from E,D&I? Whilst creating a new dedicated post or giving an existing post a new title may give the appearance of action and commitment, there is a risk that other members of the senior management team leave it to this individual to get on with it. We know from the experience of organisation that are making real progress that every member of the senior management team needs to take personable  responsibility.
These organisations have also found that the effectiveness of any strategy is reduced if it is added to an already long list of priorities. If it’s not a top priority it isn’t going to happen. Ownership throughout the organisation is essential which has implications for recruitment, induction and training. Don’t recruit people who don’t get it, make sure new employees are on board, help existing employee identify and understand the implications and assist managers in bringing about the changes.
Whether your optimistic or pessimistic about the future following Cop 26 organisations simply can’t afford to ignore sustainability.

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