I am constantly surprised and still shocked that after all the years and all the effort by thousands of people trying to anchor sustainability in the business community, executives still need convincing. Recently, I visited one of the leading strategy consultants to catch up with the head of sustainable practice. It was encouraging to see that serious effort had gone into packaging the value and profitability offering. One could see that serious resources had been allocated. What disturbed me that he mentioned that senior management doesn’t really see the opportunity.
How large an elephant needs to fall on their heads before they actually understand their own self interest?
What is blocking or preventing business accepting the obvious? I think the real problem resides with ignorance. Ignorance stems from lack of information and education, both of which can be tracked to the media and educational system. If we look at most of the media, and the financial publication, in particular, it is quite amazing how little attention is given to the money flows in ESG and Impact Investing. Just take a look at the amount of money that has been committed to investments with high environmental impact, as well as a social impact:
ESG growth (public equity), including core(portfolio screening) and engagement went from Euros 187 billion, in 2003 to Euros 5.000 billion in 2009, according to Eurosif. In the private sector, total investment for green investments reached $ 1667, between 2007-2010. This included corporate commitments (R&D), smart grid commitments, cleantech vc, ipo and m&a, green real estate, and renewable energy. In the public sector, the stimulus package, committed $ 1100 billion to social (health, education) and environmental (water, rail, energy) to the private sector. This should have been front page news, and hardly got any attention. How is that possible?
I used to teach at a ranked mba a course on sustainable finance. The course was considered a bee keeping course. Cute, but not important. After all these years, we still see few universities offering a comprehensive program on sustainabilty and fewer still on sustainable finance. This can often be traced to a laziness, and turf wars. If one new program comes in and then another goes out. Yet, sustainability where the jobs are and will be, both in the financial sector and the non-financial sector.
As long as media and education keep the door locked on sustainabilty, and then cement the door, and then barricade the door with trucks and barbed wire, progress will be measured in microns. Educators and journalists. Get out of your ghetto, and do your job!