We are in the midst of a battle for humanity’s future. Regardless of what you think about climate change, it’s difficult to deny that something is happening. Nobody is sheltered from the consequences. Therefore, everybody has a responsibility to play their part. Executives have even more of an obligation. From the upper echelons of organizational structures, members of the C-Suite can lead a charge that nobody else will.
There is a lot to be said about the quality of our politicians at the moment – on both sides of the party divide. I think the part I find most difficult to palate is how they talk down to the Australian public. They take complicated issues, that require even more complicated answers, and reduce them to simple slogans or coin-flip decisions.
When it comes to climate change, the Australian public is spoon-fed an overly simplistic dichotomy of available choices. This is a topic that, rightly or wrongly, splits opinion. Politicians say: “The economy. The climate. Pick one.” What this creates is a war of interests. Each side has an equally weighty argument because, funnily enough, both the economy and the climate are rather important.
If we pick the economy, as we did at the recent election, we meander mindlessly towards a void that we will not truly comprehend until we are falling into it. If we pick the climate, many Australians’ quality of life will deteriorate to the point where we will ask whether it is all worth it.
As educated professionals, we know that this is not a case of ‘neither can live while the other survives.’ The choice we face is not one of sacrifice: it is one of compromise.
Why does the responsibility fall on executives?
Politicians are not giving us the answer. They should be but they aren’t. And they won’t. The pressure for votes and ideological constraints prevent this.
Australian organisations and corporations must. The reason why: climate change is the biggest risk your organization will ever face. We implement strategies to avoid the adverse effects of misconduct and other minor issues; dealing with climate change should not be any different. All of this will be done in a way that maximises Australia’s economic potential because, naturally, organisations remain profit driven.
Members of the C-Suite have the chance to influence our future.
What are the risks?
Australia is searing. Our rivers are running dry. Our countryside, alight. It’s only Springtime as well. Think about what our Summer has in store.
Natural disasters caused $160 billion worth of damage in 2018 and Munich Re. Control Risks estimates that this will rise in 2019. Putting the immense and tragic human suffering to one side, this poses a massive risk to organizational supply chains. If a disaster occurs that limits your supply of materials, your foundations are taken out from beneath you. The University of Maryland found that global supply chain disruptions went up by 100% in 2017, emphasizing the legitimacy of this risk to some Australian organisations, considering ours is a country of extreme weather situations.
At a more basic level, resources are going to get more expensive. Water and electricity, particularly the later, could jeopardize your business strategies in the future.
These troubles are magnified by uncertainty around the world. As the crisis becomes more and more pressing, different factors will arise that make your ability to plan ahead and capitalize on opportunities increasingly difficult. We don’t know the approach countries like China and India will take. We don’t know what impact refugees from Pacific Island States will have. Anything can happen.
Therefore, as an executive, you need to develop risk management strategies to deal with these prospects. Naturally, they should involve attempts to minimize your effect on the environment. The uncertainty of our future means the only thing we can foresee is disaster; to avoid this, organisations must lead from the front when it comes to environmental impact.
The way forward
The future is in our hands. Everyone has an influence but executives more so. The way your organization chooses to manage the risk of climate change will affect the fate of the world around you.
There is no one better to trust. Executives find themselves in their positions of responsibility because they know how to balance the drive for profit against potential costs and other risks. They can strategize, adapt and capitalize.
While those in charge rest on their laurels, you must forge a sustainable path forward that secures your, your employer’s, your country’s and your world’s future.
This is a simple case of risk surveyance and management. You’ve done it before.
The only difference – the risk is existential.