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19 July 2017

Game of Thrones and the Sustainability Vision Thing

Great excitement chez Kane on Monday as, as soon as the junior members of the household were safely asleep, we could head back to Westeros and caught up with Arya, Jon Snow, Cersei and the rest of the huge, disparate but now converging cast of characters that populate the Game of Thrones universe. I'm not going to give anything away – one innocent click on Monday spoilt the opening for me, thank you very much Independent – but it did make me think about some of the Sustainability debates I've been having recently.

There's a strong fan theory that the overall story – tribes of people fighting to the death over the smallest of short term political gains while ignoring the existential threat of the White Walkers – is an analogy for our own short termism in the face of the threat of climate change. And of course, as the lengthy winter starts in Westeros, we can see the implications: food shortages, mass migration of threatened peoples etc, etc. And yet most of the characters are caught up in their own web of lust, hatred, envy, power and vengeance and pay little regard to the big threat.

So far, so good.

But I am still amazed at those who believe that the solution to climate change is to regress to some kind of pre-industrial state. Going 'plastic-free' seems to be the new 'gluten-free', seen as somehow inherently good despite a complete lack of evidence to back the idea up (the number of people who think they are gluten intolerant is many times the number who actually are). The Guardian ran a plastic-free piece on Tuesday, memorably including a 'pig hair toothbrush'. Nice. Read the rest of this entry »

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30 April 2012

Greenest Government Ever and The Vision Thing

In my post last Friday on David Cameron's little green speech, I mentioned in passing that I thought his vision to lead "the greenest Government ever" was superficially compelling but in reality rather insubstantial. I've been mulling on this over the weekend and thought it was worth expanding on - as I explain in The Green Executive, a vision is an important element of an effective sustainability strategy.

Having a compelling vision gives you a touchstone around which you can develop your strategy, lead your troops and fall back on when difficult decisions loom. However, it is also a big stick for others to beat you with when you either fall short or, more importantly, are perceived to fall short. So when, say, the solar industry gets upset about the cut to the Feed In Tariff, the cry immediately goes up "how can you call yourselves the greenest Government ever?"

The problem for the politicians is that different people have different views on what "greenest" means. For some, steady progress over what has gone before is quite sufficient, for others whatever is achieved will never be enough. If your vision is vague, the threshold will be set by the observer - and of course the press will define the way that suits the particular article they are writing.

Flooring giant Interface got around this by having "Mission Zero" as their vision - a zero impact on the environment by 2020. This is brilliant as it is both compelling and absolute - it can be measured against. Below the overall vision are seven objectives - the 'seven faces of Mount Sustainability' as the company calls them - which allow more precise measurement. These thresholds also provide some backside cover if an unexpected issue arises.

So the ideal vision has a compelling big picture AND some precise objectives to define the bottom line - what you really mean by that big picture. Set the thresholds or others will set them for you. OK, Dave?

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