When speaking in front of large groups, particularly those where future leaders are in the room, I often go out of my way to point out that no CEO on the planet is going to recalibrate their firm to save the polar bears. Even if the, as many would, feel strongly that they are an important icon. And it is not because they don’t care, or that they are evil. It is just a simple matter of fact that the polar bear is an emotional icon that at the end of the day is too intangible to catalyze real action.
That, for there to be action, there needs to be tangibility.
The above chart, from the article It’s still the economy, not the environment, makes this point very clear. That, even with all the awareness, engagement, and pledges surrounding the Copenhagen and Rio conferences, the importance of the environment fell (dramatically) year on year from 2007 until 2011. Awareness has never been so hi. Calls for change had never been so many. Yet, even with all that, the gap kept getting wider.
Not surprising given the fact that as the great recession was taking hold of the country, people were losing jobs, having their homes taken from them, and seeing the banks (and bank accounts) wiped out. Very tangible reasons to focus on the economy wouldn’t you say?
Without tangibility, there is no action, and without action, there is no change.