Tuesday, July 27, 2010

C-Level Leadership

Leadership for sustainability is critical for maintaining and fostering a decent quality of life on this planet for as many of its inhabitants as possible.  This leadership needs to come from everywhere - citizens, government, business, religion, education, etc. - and from all levels - the boss, the workers, the students, the moms, the kids, etc.

The recently released McKinsey Global Survey on how companies are managing (or not managing) sustainability stresses the importance of active C-Level leadership in avoiding the risks and taking advantage of the opportunities that the sustainability challenge presents for every organization.  They state:
Companies where sustainability is a top item in their CEOs’ agendas are twice as likely as others to integrate sustainability into their companies’ business practices. This suggests that senior executives who want to reap the benefits of incorporating sustainability into their companies’ overall strategies must take an active role in the effort.

This is something we stress all the time in our work with college & university presidents through the ACUPCC - and a central theme of the Leading Profound Change (pdf) resource we developed with presidents and chancellors on how exactly to take an active leadership role in this process on an ongoing basis.

It's also why the lack of such leadership from the other "C-level" - Congress - is so disheartening.  I won't go into details on why, because others have done so more eloquently than I would be able to in recent days, but I would highly recommend taking the time to read the following:

In "We're Gonna Be Sorry" Friedman shares a story that ran in The China Daily the same day news that the Senate would not pursue a bill before the August recess was released, and that clearly shows how this inaction and lack of leadership is ceding power and moral authority to China (and undermining one Massachusetts Senator's rationale for inaction):
“BEIJING — The country is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission ... Putting a price on carbon is a crucial step for the country to employ the market to reduce its carbon emissions and genuinely shift to a low-carbon economy, industry analysts said.”

He also cites a hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham, who wrote:
Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for ... what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

Finally, in "What 7 Republicans Could Do" Friedman notes:
What if the G.O.P. said: We will support a carbon tax provided one-third of the revenue goes toward cutting corporate taxes, one-third toward cutting payroll taxes for every working American and one-third toward paying down the deficit. The G.O.P. would actually help us get a better energy policy.  Surely there are seven Republican senators who can see this. Aren’t there?

Hopefully there will be - this is the kind of thinking needed to get past partisan politics and implement smart policies that will benefit all of us.  But it is going to take a heavy push from all of us to encourage our Senators to see that and to actually take up a real charge on passing a climate bill this year after the August recess.

Stay going.

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