Protests and Impact

Last month, climate change rallies in Brussels and London - led by school pupils - issued an important statement to the leaders of today, and to the general population. Over 25,000 people who are unrepresented in elections, boards of companies emitting vast amounts of CO2 and those in public positions of authority have made it clear that they are not happy. This unrest? Caused by the knowledge that the current activities towards curbing climate change will not leave them with a world that is suitable for their children and grandchildren.

When groups of unrepresented people make their feelings known, it is sometimes perceived to be due to a lack of understanding or an over simplification of the facts. However, in the last 50 years we have made decisions which have led us to this point, and now, fresh eyes do not endorse those decisions that have been made. Why should investors, policy makers and industry leaders consider only current or short-term cost vs. benefit? Where is the forward-thinking which is so crucial to intelligent innovations?  Currently, people in the decision-making seats are unlikely to be around when the impact of their decisions is more overtly seen, and without a sense of urgency, they are not going to change.

A good example of this is what has been dubbed the ‘blue planet effect'. I have been lucky enough to see the impact from the inside of boardrooms and policy making chambers. People have acted; the plastics policy, the 1bn bottle Biffa recycling plant and the flick of a CEOs wrist to enable technical or sustainability managers to deal with single use plastics. What was the driver? Was it because they suddenly realised that something could be done? Of course not, it was because there was a sense of urgency. A public-driven push for change. *

Will those students instigate the sense of urgency that decision makers need to actually make a difference? Sadly not. However, leaders that see this new segment of the population as a valuable insight into the next 5-10 years of strategic planning will understand that offering a better solution will reveal benefits. Those companies like Interface, Ikea and Suez who intend to use their brand, infrastructure and voices as platforms for positive impact and regenerative product and service delivery will be immediately better placed than those who are still catering for the incumbent market.

On the flip side of the coin, the public need to talk the language of business. Buying from brands that represent their values, rather than just the cheapest options on the market, would mean businesses have an incentive to deliver better environmental impact. So, when the rallies are over, the population need utilise their powerful economic voice, and put their money where their mouths are.


*Note: Not everything that has been done to reduce plastic waste is necessarily better, and plastic does have its place in our lives as a useful material.

Jake Harding