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Leading for change



With global leaders having left Glasgow and COP26 drawing to a close, Ceilidh Jackson – Baker, the Partnership’s Communications and Engagement Coordinator considers what business leaders can do now to create meaningful change.

If we are to respond to the climate and nature crises, it’s clear that business as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore and that regardless of how well we all work to minimise global warming, there will be disruption. Leaders and businesses must adapt and prepare for uncertainty and change.

At a recent event on ‘Averting climate catastrophe: collaboration, care and COP26’ by the University of the West of England’s (UWE) Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, visiting faculty members Professor Jonathan Gosling and Charlene Collison discussed leadership for sustainability and climate change. Here are some key points from the event along with action you can take today.

Don’t wait for the Government to tell you what to do

be the changeThe time is now for innovation and entrepreneurship. Of course, there are constraints and enablers that will depend on the Government making changes but there is a lot that doesn’t. Define a new way of working, look at new business models, scale up creative initiatives, sign up to net positive goals and put back more into the world than you take out.

Those businesses that start now in providing transparency about their practices, in understanding and being able to trace their whole supply chains, and in being accountable for their emissions, will be ready when eventually those requirements are enshrined in law.

Work together to lobby for positive change

Lobbying has a bad reputation, but it isn’t inherently bad. There is power in the collective and businesses can work together to lobby for positive change. This ‘deliberative lobbying’ can work well alongside deliberative democracy such as citizen’s assemblies, provided there is transparency, traceability and accountability including about how inclusive or not those spaces are.

Connect with the issues on both an emotional and rational level

Fundamentally, leaders are the elite. When you have power and influence, it can be challenging to change the status quo and act on the knowledge we now all have about climate change. The ‘echoes of conscience’ framework from Professor Jonathan Gosling and his colleagues latest research, covers various factors that create the conditions for leaders to generate positive meaningful change. Although some of these are out of the control of individuals, they are nevertheless interesting when considering the circumstances needed for change. They are:

  • Having directly experienced the suffering of others, especially the impact of your industry.
  • Masters of justice; having someone in your orbit who says out loud what you were not willing to face or acknowledge. This could be a respected personal connection or someone in the public eye such as Sir David Attenborough. If you are one of those individuals with trusted authority, then speak up.planet over profit protest sign
  • The influence of loved ones; your intimate connections sharing concerns or questioning you, for example children being involved in Fridays for Future.
  • Conversation networks; being part of a network where leaders can talk openly about the issues. These networks are important and influential and is exactly what we are trying to create with the Climate Action Programme and Climate Leaders Group.

Widen your circles of care

The leadership style of the future will be one of collaboration and care. Think beyond investors and shareholders to all stakeholders including nature, the environment, and the wider community in the places where you operate.

We will emotionally be calling on you to deny the reality and sell us salvation. Please resist the temptation to satisfy us on those grounds but help us to come to terms with the realities we are facing. Find ways to adapt that are inclusive and kind and human.” Professor Jonathan Gosling

What you can do now

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