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London: Systems change required

Our London dinner debate took place in November and featured a conversation between BSR CEO Aron Cramer and David Blood, senior partner and cofounder of Generation Investment Management.

Blood opened the discussion with highlights from his research with Generation cofounder Al Gore on “Sustainable Capitalism.” He framed the discussion by noting a key finding from their research: Current sustainability initiatives will not be enough to generate the kind of progress required in the future.

Other highlights from this discussion included the need for:

Better communications: The business case for sustainability is strong, but it needs to be communicated more clearly, broadly and quickly. Blood noted that for many leaders, long-term thinking may resonate more than sustainability. When business leaders hear discussions about “values and purpose,” they relate more to “purpose.” In the end, he said, we need more vision, discipline and better business models to drive this agenda forward.

Changes in the marketplace: The transition to a more sustainable marketplace is not happening quickly enough. Financial markets are failing to connect business objectives with sustainability. Blood noted that this is perpetuated by a political system that follows the short-term mindset of the financial market and by a citizenry that does not appreciate the confluence of the challenges we’re facing.

Disruptive change: Particularly in regard to climate change, we’ve accepted the status quo and are passively waiting for disruptive technology to solve this challenge. Inaction, Blood pointed out, is in fact both a choice and an action. The big question still remains: How can we spur the disruptive change needed to accelerate progress?