Why Corporations Will Feel Increased Pressure to Recalibrate

When speaking about sustainability, I often revert to a patter of addressing the what, why, who, and the how much.

  • What are the problems.
  • Why these problems are important
  • Who will is responsible for addressing them
  • How much it will cost

And without exception, I can carry a crowd of MBAs, EMBS, EVPs, or CEOs, through the first two because with a couple of tweaks to my pitch I can create a tangible connection between the audience members and an issue of sustainability.  Economic, environmental, or social.

When speaking about the “who” though, I have found that things can get a bit more interesting though because no one wants to admit that they will have to be the ones to change.

We have seen this within various governments who are unwilling to admit that growth has side effects that need to be addressed, because they fear the negative impact to growth in the short run. We have seen this in consumers, who will gladly tell you they are willing to buy “green” and act “green” for a survey, but are in reality eagerly awaiting the next version of an iPhone or fashionable accessory for their pets.  And we have seen this in corporate leaders who are desperately trying to fend off regulations and consumers pressure for change.

Which is why I created the slide above.

A slide I showed for the first time last week, the slide was the product of a 2010 Ogilvy research survey looking into green consumerism in China.

One of the most compelling charts of the entire report was the chart that shows the results of a question meant to determine who was ultimately going to be the primary actor in resolving the issues faced.  At first glance, it would appear that business got off the hook at governments and individuals feel that they are the once obligated to act.. and are doing so.

Where this become a problems is that what is going to happen (is already happening) is that governments and consumers will be “acting” in ways that push and pull businesses into action. Push through regulation.  Pull through consumer exceptions.


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