There is no question that a very strong underlying theme of the World Economic Forum is how we can make the world a better place. How do we do well by doing good?
Nowhere was that theme more evident than in the session I attended on sustainability, titled “Reshaping Green Agendas.” A panel of experts from China, Korea, Brazil, U.S. and the Netherlands talked about the challenges and opportunities we face in striving to lessen our impact on the environment. One interesting question came from the audience essentially asking: Is all this effort really hopeless? What will it take to raise sustainability in the consciousness and on the priority list of the world’s population?
My personal answer to that question came from a dinner I attended the night before, at which an historian tried to put our current predicament in some sort of perspective. In relating this perspective, my figures may be off slightly, but not by much. He said that the planet Earth has been in existence for more than a billion years. The human race has been in existence for approximately 10,000 years – a miniscule fraction of the Earth’s life span to date. And yet the pace at which we are consuming the Earth’s resources is accelerating at almost a vertical rate when viewed on a relative time scale measuring the Earth’s life span. The historian made the point that the human race is the only species known to be destructive to its natural environment.
Now, the key is not to take this as “doom and gloom.” Rather, it’s to provide a context for the efforts around sustainability. We can make a difference in the world, and we can do so by helping our clients consume less energy, operate more efficiently using less resources and follow the same practices ourselves. Doing so will be good for our clients, good for the firm, and good for the environment.