Last month I completed a course in Strategy and Sustainability which was delivered by the IESE Business School. The lessons learnt were invaluable, but one module really resonated with me. It was around the six differences between businesspeople, environmentalists, regulators, and politicians. Here are my takeaways.
Dean Williams, a Professor at Harvard Kennedy School concluded that true leadership comes from overlooking the fact that our actions are based on assumptions and values that brings with it. We do what we do towards our people and planet because of what we believe, understand, and think about the world.
Dean’s model is very clear and simple. Activists, politicians, and regulators are too focused on the actions that companies, and businesses are taking. If we are to change behaviours towards people and planet, we must look deeper at people’s values and assumptions. Adopting this context, the conversation between these individuals will result in a very different outcome.
let’s look at the four differences between these individuals:
- Environmentalists don’t seem to understand that the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the products we buy are here because the businesspeople thought about the gaps and filled for us. We will not be where we are without these people.
- Businesspeople don’t have the mindset or the ability to plan or forecast for more than 5 years whereas if we are talking about biodiversity or climate change, the plan is much longer than what a businessperson is able to measure.
- Businesspeople speak and only understand the language of finance. Whereas on the environmental side the conversation is more about good and evil, right, or wrong. Hence, they are both singling from different hymn sheets.
- The role of government is different in both scenarios. In the business world we look at our governments to tell us the rules and regulations on how to run our business. Engagement with the government is normal in the business world. Whereas in the environmental world, the government is seen as a partner to the business and together they are harming our people and planet hence the government can not be trusted.
We could argue that the reason we on this planet it to care for it and its people, but from the above its clear that business logic and the environmental logic are two different logics and if we are to save our planet and people, we all need to be aligned and look into our values and assumptions instead of the actions that we do. We need to understand why are we behaving in a certain way and what can be done to nudge our behaviour into a people and planet focused behaviour.
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