Free your mind (and Sustainability will follow)
This has been the first Monday in 2021 where *I* decide how my day is going to pan out. I practically danced my way to the school gate to hand over my kids to the people who really know how to educate kids. And then I walked home via the park, breathing in the fresh air, back to my office where I know what I’m doing and I’m boss (and no longer trying to cram a day’s work into half an afternoon twice a week). And the freedom feels great.
Freedom is why I set up Terra Infirma 15 years ago this summer. Freedom is why I have associates rather than employees. Freedom is, frankly, why I steer clear of environmental standards.
Three times already this year I have referred potential clients to colleagues who ‘enjoy’ working within frameworks set by ISO, GRI, CDP and so on. I can understand why those standards exist, but as one wag put it “ISO14001 lets you destroy the environment in a well documented manner.” As soon as you set a standard, you are not only setting a minimum level of performance, but also a de facto maximum one. Some of my clients’ Sustainability departments spend 50% of their time preparing annual submissions against the standards the business has adopted, time that could be spent improving their Sustainability performance.
What I do with my clients is to maximise that other 50% – giving them something of substance to report. The methods I use are designed to stimulate the imagination of others, thinking outside the box and freeing minds from the ‘tyranny of the present’ (which includes all that compliance/reporting stuff). We create a vision of where we want the organisation to be, then work out how to get there. I recall a board member at one client saying “I thought Sustainability was meant to be boring – that was fun!”
Yes, standards are important in their place. But Sustainability will be delivered by creativity, not compliance. Everybody has to a certain amount of boring stuff, but make sure you are giving yourself a chance to do something amazing as well.