Sustainability success has a hundred fathers…
Back in 2009/10 I was second in command of a small political team which steered my adopted hometown of Newcastle to be designated the UK’s Most Sustainable City two years running, beating frontrunners such as Brighton and Bristol. It made a big splash in the press – “It’s Green Up North” headlines etc.
The first time we got it, a strange thing happened. Individuals who had had to be bypassed because they were so intransigent suddenly started saying things like “we put Sustainability at the heart of everything we do”, and whole organisations who had only had the most tenuous involvement started bragging about their contribution.
At first I bristled (“The cheeky b*******s!”), then I realised that this bandwagon-jumping was a sign of success. Our goal was not to bask in the glow of adulation of others, but to use the award to build momentum and move forward – which we did as the second year our winning margin had increased (the award wasn’t given out after that). For someone with my ego, I found this magnanimity very difficult in practice!
I was reminded about this lesson recently when I saw a great environmental success get tainted by a squabble over who did what, which is a real shame. Much of it comes down to different perceptions and partial knowledge of who did what. It’s sad to see the success get overshadowed and progress grind to a halt – a warning to us all.