Current incremental thinking and action rests heavily on the innovation of more isolated technology intervention to tackle the climate crisis. Regrettably, what is side-lined is investment in the integration of current technology – to do more with what we have. Technology integration to create the space and capacity for new eco-innovation without destroying IPCC carbon budgets.
It follows, to use better what we already have and integrate at the nexus of hard and soft systems will drive exponential improvement and create the space to research and develop new technology. It is vital to understand space and time in decision making, otherwise decisions get made in the wrong order, which results in environmental return on investment being so far in the future as IPCC temperature targets will be missed in the time frames required.
Productivity to Resilience
In the field of economics, the words of “efficiency” and “productivity” are giving way to “resilience” and “sustainability”.
But space and time are missing from these discussions. For example, financial sustainability experts remain strangely blind to the concept of efficiency as one of efficiency over time to be sustainably viable. I believe this to be the result of current economic models that make no provision for time since they regard the future as simply an extension of the present. What is efficient today will be efficient tomorrow. Accordingly, despite vast investment, climate change has morphed to a climate emergency due to continued sub-optimal behaviour. This suggests that notions of productivity and efficiency are treated separately leaving the environmental efficacy of ‘green investments’ ambiguous in contrast to financial due diligence. Such actions suggest ‘green investment’ being a three-horse race where environmental and social return on investment are of less importance. Consequently, many risks are left, with associated opportunities missed.
Mediocrity is the Enemy of the Solution
To be an effective advisor is a skill in its own right. It takes confidence, and highly persuasive skills. But what some advisors in sustainability lack is the depth and breadth of knowledge at a whole systems level. To think and act in four dimensions. To use imagination1. To ask the right questions. Confidence trumps knowledge.
This suggests, that to accelerate ‘climate-action’ requires general multidisciplinary skill sets that bridge fragmented specialisms to reveal where the negative impact between pools of knowledge, decisions and / or technologies, contribute to sub-optimal performance and for example, to resource depletion, waste, emissions, pollution and poor health. Thus, with better understood risks, consequences and opportunities, decision makers have a palpable knowledge of the questions that need to be asked.
Such a broadened skill delivers operational and reporting critical services to check the true nature of sustainability reporting, modelling and actions within organisations / finance etc, for completeness and materiality over time. Is it sustainably viable? Are there unintended consequences and risk unaccounted for? Missed opportunities? Thus, ensure balance between decisions, expose bias, infill knowledge gaps, reveal assumptions and ambiguity to capture, create and deliver more value.
Accordingly, if net-zero is to stand a chance of being achieved without ambiguity there needs to be a harmonization between fragmented specialisms and how policy and business decisions are made as well as how those decisions are implemented. As a result, we can create quantitative information that internalises externalities and values environmental return on investment. Hence, sustainability must evolve to sustainable viability as a benchmark for the skills, competencies, knowledge and action for validated and trusted responses.
If you can’t imagine it, your model can’t capture it, and that means the evidence won’t reflect it.
1 C Gleadle 2020, Naïve Modelling and Covid-19 Long Finance, Z/Yen