On Sustainability: Go Big or Go Home
The first four of my rules of pragmatic environmentalism were mainly aimed at the old-school green activism mindset which in my opinion holds us back from the rapid progress we need to make. But this last, fifth rule is aimed at us all.
For too long we have been told that we face existential threats, but are given ’10 Top Tips’ such as reusing plastic bags and not leaving the TV on standby. While there’s nothing wrong with doing these, they won’t deliver sustainability on their own and the cognitive dissonance between the threat and the action can switch people off as its like firing a pea shooter at an aircraft carrier.
We need to go big, or go home.
Two weeks ago today I submitted the manuscript for my next DoShort book, provisionally titled Accelerating Sustainability using the 80:20 Rule. The 80:20 rule says that, in many cases, 20% of actions/effort/input give us 80% of results and 80% of actions give us just 20%. This is a phenomenally powerful tool as it allows us to cut away all the extraneous activity – all those networks of green champions, endless supplier questionnaires and jute bags of green goodies – and focus on those things which will make a real difference – such as ditching a low sustainability supplier in favour of one with good sustainability credentials, or substituting secondary materials for virgin materials, or purchasing an electric vehicle fleet.
Along with the 80:20 Rule, a restless mindset of “good, we’ve done that, but it’s not enough, how can we do it better?” will keep you out of your comfort zone and continually reaching for the next level.
And one of the most powerful moves is the stretch target – if you set your sights on cutting your carbon emissions by, say, 50% in 10 years, you will come up with much better projects than you will if your target is 5% by next year.
So set the bar high, clear it, then push it higher. You may just surprise yourself!