Of coalitions, co-operation and strange bedfellows
Here in the UK, we are in uncharted political territory. An electoral system which we are told will deliver strong Government has given us a hung parliament for the first time in decades. Negotiations are taking place between the big three parties and the smaller parties are praying for a slice of the action. The problem of course is that, while there is some common ground between them, and much more between any two of them, there remains clear disagreement on key issues like taxation, immigration, defence, civil liberties and electoral reform. The compromises that would be required to deliver a stable Government will inevitably lead to anguish and recriminations.
There is a similar position between the players in the sustainability debate. Business, green pressure groups, the media, the academic community, the general public and Governments often find themselves on different sides of a hotchpotch of different fences. We see the media going to town on recycling systems (“Nine bin nightmare” was one recent headline) and the anti-capitalist end of the NGO spectrum would see even speaking to a businessman as selling out. But there have been a number of cases of where coalitions have delivered more sustainable results.
To take one as an example, Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) are working together on watershed management in the third world. This was a direct response to criticisms that Coke were depriving local communities and farmers of drinking quality water. The presence of WWF ensures that Coke does the job properly and gives the outside world confidence that Coke are serious about it. If WWF lets Coke off the hook, their own reputation would be diminished. If WWF walks away in disgust, the headlines will be terrible for Coke. So the co-operation forms an armlock on both partners to deliver results.
As UK politicians are now finding, working together ain’t easy. But the Coca-Cola example shows it can not only be done, but that the whole can be much more than the sum of the parts.