Everybody seems to be jumping on the sustainability bandwagon these days and why not? If it puts your brand in a better light then even the c-suite will lend an ear. Unfortunately, if there’s any material cost to jumping on board, then the risk/reward equation quickly becomes skewed and falls out of favor with those having to make such decisions. Sustainability can be difficult to define let alone measure as it’s mostly an intangible prospect and usually without immediate returns so we’re left in a bit of a quandary.
There is also a chicken and egg aspect to sustainability that often adds to the risk side of the equation making it all the more difficult to make bold decisions for its support. Add the shear size and complexity of many companies and you almost begin to wonder if the subject is even worth considering. The one factor that continues to hold sustainability in the spotlight is quite simply the results we may face if we allow ourselves to NOT think it worthy of our consideration. We all know this and we all know that the clock is still ticking.
This adds a degree of pressure to find solutions before it’s too late but when is “too late”? Not knowing the answer to that question is what allows us to put it off until another day and this seems to be the crux of the entire problem. When IS “too late”?
As a species we humans haven’t been the best stewards of our environment because Mother Earth has supplied us with such bounty over the years but, that bounty may have limitations. If you believe that global warming is a man-made phenomenon, and it seems to be pointing that way more with each passing day, then we might think it wise to do something about it, right? Not necessarily when you consider the species we’re dealing with here: humans! Unlike Mother Earth herself, we have, among others, the social, financial and emotional considerations to deal with as well which only serves to muddy the waters further. Add to that the greed factor and the NIMBY effect and the entire problem begins to seem insurmountable. Consider this article titled, “Is Saudi Arabia Trying To Scuttle Climate Accord?” from Forbes writer, Christopher Helman and you begin to understand what we’re up against.
As is often the case, we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to finding solutions or taking the bold steps necessary to implement those solutions. We’ve created quite the conundrum for ourselves and the noose continues to tighten the longer we wait. I guess what it all comes down to is our mindset and I don’t just mean mine or yours but, the mindset of each and every human on earth! The spectrum ranges from those who just want to stick their head in the sand and believe it’s always somebody else’s problem or hope it will just go away to those who recognize the problem for what it is and are determined to do their part to try to correct or improve it.
It’s not going to just go away. Unfortunately, that time element is often used to somehow justify our inaction. We quickly land on a very slippery slope when we try to absolve ourselves of the problem with this type of thinking. It’s like a cigarette smoker thinking that one more cigarette won’t kill them. That may be true but, eventually, time may catch up to them. Why take that risk? We have to act! We have to change our habits. Just like the smoker has to quit smoking or face increased risk, we have to quit ignoring this problem or pretending it’s somebody else’s problem or face increased risk ourselves. The smokers reason for quitting smoking is a somewhat selfish decision because, for the most part, it only effects that individual. We have an advantage over the individual smoker in our ability to work together for the betterment of us all. There’s strength in numbers! Our disadvantage lies in our mindset.
If we allow ourselves to believe that investing hard currency into sustainability doesn’t offer enough return for the inherent risk of the investment then we need to give our cumulative heads a shake. It may not be an immediate return but, it is a return nonetheless and, over time, it will come back on a scale of social, financial and even emotional return that is far greater than anything that we, as a species, have ever even tried to measure. The true risk comes from our mindset.
To think that our own small individual contributions won’t make a difference is a somewhat shallow view. Perhaps the enormity of the problem is what has many people thinking along these lines but, when taken together, we, as a global force, truly do create strength in our numbers! By simply taking the time to put that one can in the recycling bin instead of the garbage or taking your old computer to a recycling facility instead of the dump we can collectively truly start to make a difference. The hardest part is taking that first step to simply change our mindset. We’ve created this mess collectively and we can surely clean it up collectively too but, it has to come from each of us individually. We have to change our mindsets to recognize that each of us individually, from the c-suite executive to the mail clerk, can make a difference if we put our minds to it.
This brings us back to the title of this post, “How do we fund sustainability?” Until we change our way of thinking to recognize the importance of our individual efforts it will always be easiest to just ignore the problem or leave it to someone else to worry about. Unfortunately, that clock keeps on ticking and Mother Earth may have reached the limits of her bounty so, if we don’t start to make the necessary investment and quit tying the risk to strictly financial returns, then we’ll never find a way to fund sustainability and the returns that we do receive will be our just rewards.