Do we really need the Terra Carta?
I was on a Zoom call yesterday with a business associate about a potential collaborative project, when she asked me what I thought of the Terra Carta. I was vaguely aware that Prince Charles had launched a new Sustainability initiative of that name, but that I hadn’t actually read it. She seemed a little surprised by this, and I was a tad embarrassed at not being on top of it, but the reason why I wasn’t is that there are a gazillion different initiatives you can sign up to, some better than others, but most are much of a muchness.
Having now had a look at Terra Carta, it does look pretty good, but how does a business decide between structuring their efforts around that, or the Sustainable Development Goals, or One Planet Living, or Cradle to Cradle, or the CDP, or to one or more of the many sector-specific sets of principles? On the latter, I’ve been wading through about six sectoral initiatives for a client’s Sustainability Strategy and, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter which they choose as the strategy we are developing will pretty much cover all of them. Which begs the question, why bother with any of them?
The answer is public relations. If you say you are fully signed up to Terra Carta or the Widget Manufacturers’ Association Declaration on Sustainability, then that’s something to talk about. But signing up to it doesn’t make you more Sustainable. You can collect these things like stamps without lifting a finger. The only practical internal benefit is it gives you a weapon to beat recalcitrant colleagues over the head with if they start to drag their heels.
My view on declarations and initiatives is: We know what we need to do, we have the technology to do it and the only substantial remaining barrier is just 6″ wide – the space between our ears. Making change happen is the big challenge of this decade and, to me, Terra Carta is a bit of a distraction. Sorry, Your Highness, it may be a well-crafted distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.