A couple of times in recent weeks and months I have heard/read calls for 'long term thinking' for Sustainability - 2050 seems to have a particular allure due to UN climate targets. As is all too common in our field, there is no challenge to the assumption that this is a good thing. But in my experience, setting organisational targets too far in the future, is counter-productive. Here's why:
1. People, particularly key decision makers, assume they will be on the golf course or pushing up the daisies by then and don't see the targets as their problem, so you create drift;
2. For everyone, 2050 seems a long time away, so there will be plenty of time to do something about those targets when all this short term stuff gets sorted;
3. The assumption that technology will come to our rescue, also negating the need to act now – solar powered hover cars and all that.
In other words, we need timeframes which create a sense of urgency while giving time to make substantial change. I find 7-10 years is optimum for most organisations with significant assets; you can go a bit shorter in, say, the service sector. If you are wedded to 2050, make sure you set some interim targets (2025?) to create that urgency.
I suppose a bit like 'Think Global, Act Local', we need to 'Think Long Term, Act Now.'