I once believed if you threw enough evidence at people, corporate executives included, they would succumb to the logic of the need for greater environmental and social responsibility in business.
Evidence, fact, proof was all that was needed. So I became a measurer of all things sustainable. I began with the simplest of things: numbers of people affected, parts per millions inhaled, species lost… Nothing worked even on my best of friends who knew better. Business as usual.
In response, an obsession grew. I would hunt down arcane measures of happiness and productivity, returns to moral on philharmonic donations. I couldn’t stop. I consumed hundreds of labelling schemes, corporate codes of conduct, policy and regulatory regimes. Consumer and C Suit polls, I snacked on them whilst gorging on best of class lists, investment screens and filters…..
Intellectually obese with both good and bad measures of why we ought to change our production and consumption habits, I threw my hands up in surrender. Nothing it seemed worked.
It was then I realized that numbers do not a psyche change.
Our inability to change even in the face of overwhelming fact, runs deep. Carolyn Gregoireon of the Huffington Post argued that “we can’t just focus on giving people information about the issue” and expect them to come to a logical conclusion.
“People” pioneering Environmental Psychologist Renee Lertzman adds “would spend many hours telling me about how distressed and sad they are about the way things are changing … Then I would hear people move quickly to denying that they care at all.”
Is denial another sad story of depression and hopeless angst in the material age? If so, proof, I have found it rarely provides respite to the sufferer. Perhaps a sustainability angst pill is order?
“Taking personal accountability is a beautiful thing because it gives us complete control of our destinies.”
― Heather Schuck, The Working Mom Manifesto
One should never make light of true psychological affliction. But it is hard to understand why a recent Mayo Clinic report found 70% of Americans are on or have been on one form of psych drug or another.
Denying humanity is on the wrong course with material consumerism may be yet another chapter in the slow maturation process of our species where no one seems responsible for anything save their self-gratification – the gods know I am guilty of that feeling. Is this a kind of bipolar “I hate this but it’s not my responsibility to change type of relationship?”
No snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche, but as John E. Lewis once famously said “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
The stuff of transformation, the stuff of sustainability competitive advantage, the stuff of change is not in the numbers. The stuff of real change is the story of it all, the role each of us will take, the stuff that gets us up off the proverbial couch.
Sustainability values are the values to survive. The story of sustainability is not about numbers but about how we will survive or not as a species.