Mind the Credibility Gap
I’m continuing to plough my way through the background information from a sustainability training course I’m reviewing for a client and it’s throwing up all kinds of interesting nuggets. One sustainability primer produced by a major NGO caught my eye.
The first section was a description of different sustainability definitions – the Brundtland definition, The Natural Step and the Forum for the Future Five Capitals Model. All very high level and philosophical.
The second section said the starting point of tackling sustainability was to engage stakeholders, with some good suggestions of who to consult and how to go about it.
And the third section said… um, well, no, there was no third section. That was it.
So this primer told us we face humongous, existential challenges and have to completely redesign the way we think about society, but the only tool it gave us to tackle them is a suggestion to talk to people we know about it.
I had an immediate flashback to the Live Earth concerts in 2007 where we were given apocalyptic accounts of the potential impacts of climate change – and then urged to turn of our phone chargers at night to ‘do our bit.’ Or all those books which describe the world’s problems in great detail and then in the last chapter offer incredibly vague and untested solutions to actually solve them.
People aren’t daft. If you tell them there’s a huge problem but proffer trivial or ill-defined solutions, they simply won’t believe you are credible – and rightly so.
If you want to tackle sustainability properly – whether at a global level or in an organisation – you not only have to describe the problem but to break it down into its constituent parts and sketch out solutions which are commensurate with the problem such as the circular economy, smart grid technology, the digital economy, etc etc etc.
It’s good to talk – and I make a living out of it – but make sure you don’t fall into the credibility gap by having nothing meaningful to talk about.