Thursday, December 10, 2009

Climate change & COP 15 - Part 1: Extraordinary times

In the midst of the UN Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen, I want to talk about leadership, because I believe this climate agenda – and the wider sustainability agenda – will succeed or fail depending on the quality of leadership that emerges - not only this week, but over the coming decade.

Extraordinary times

Let me begin with something that Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, said in a recent interview. He said that “part of leadership is to look reality in the eye”.

Well, at an event such as COP 15, I hardly need remind anyone that the reality we face on climate change is extremely serious. Not only is the problem potentially catastrophic, but the solution requires nothing short of a second industrial revolution.

This is not a problem we can incrementally manage our way out of. It is a crisis that requires extraordinary leadership – the kind of leadership that creates transformational change on a scale and with an urgency that the world has seldom ever seen before in peace time.

Not only do we face this extraordinary challenge, but our trust in the ability of society’s institutions to deliver the solutions is at an all time low. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer (2009) shows that nearly two-thirds of the public (62%) trust corporations less than they did a year ago. In the US, only 38% said they trust business to do what is right—a 20% plunge since last year—and only 17% said they trust information from a company’s CEO.

Part 2: Crisis in leadership

... follows tomorrow