Thursday, 1 August 2013

Don't Wait for "Someone Else" to Fix It

Several years ago I was in Senegal when the car I was in got a flat tire, in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t get the wheel off because the key to remove the bolts was missing. And it was getting dark.

As it turns out, our problem was short-lived. My Senegalese colleague stood at the side of the road waving his arm and every single car that passed us stopped to help. The road wasn't very busy, but within a few minutes we’d found a driver with a matching key.  We changed the tire and were back on our way.

If you get a flat on I-95 in America, or the M4 in Britain, other drivers will rarely stop. They assume you will have paid for your AAA (or AA) membership, or will use your phone to call a tow truck for assistance. In other words, “Why should I help? Someone else will come along, and they'll be better equipped.”

Cellphones were not very common in Senegal at the turn of the millennium. Neither were professional roadside assistance companies.  As a driver you knew that if someone was broken down on the side of the road, they needed your help.  And you knew that if your car broke down you would have to turn to other motorists for assistance.

When it comes to climate change, too many of us pretend that we're all driving down I-95 or the M4 with a cellphone and paid-up roadside assistance.  We continue on our way, confident that someone else will take care of it.

Too many companies and individuals make only token efforts at carbon management. More and more businesses may measure their carbon footprint, but scratch below the surface and you'll find the exercise confined to a small team - and for a worryingly large number of firms, data quality remains an issue.  Fewer than one in ten FTSE 100 companies use carbon neutrality to take immediate responsibility for their greenhouse gas impact, with many making pledges to get around to it sometime in the next 35 years. And efforts to spread carbon management throughout the corporate value chain are only just beginning.

When it comes to the corporate response to climate change, we can't pretend that token gestures will be enough.  In reality, we're all driving on that lonely road in turn-of-the millennium Senegal. Tackling climate change is every company's responsibility.  Don't wait for "someone else" to deal with it.