Last year, 20 000 French students signed a pledge, refusing to work for companies not committed to a sustainable economy. Many of them belonged to some of the most prestigious business schools and technical universities in the world. And although the style of that particular manifesto might have been distinctly French, its sentiment was clearly global. Everywhere, young people are waking up to climate change. Be as cynical as you like about it, but when people start to risk something for what they believe in – when they have “skin in the game” as Nassim Taleb puts it – it’s time to listen.
The business of business is business, a famous economist once said. Maybe so, but businesses have owners, depend on employees and serve customers. All human. And as human beings we have responsibilities – to each other and the planet.
We take responsibility by making choices. That very same economist was right to call it “voting with our feet”. To accept a job offer – that’s voting. To buy a product – that’s voting. To invest in a company – that’s voting. And what we’re voting on is the future of our societies. Under modern capitalism, businesses not attuned to that kind of voting will not survive (Einride recruits from some of the largest OEMs in the world, from Google and Spotify and MIT – they don’t come for the fat pay-check).
Which is why I don’t get the gloominess.
200 years ago, at the dawn of the industrial age, a prominent English economist (no, another one) suggested the only viable solution to poverty in Ireland was to let the Irish poor starve to death. For most of its history, humanity was the victim of circumstance. Plague and famine were as natural as the seasons. Technology changed all that. We are now more empowered than we ever were, more in control.
When we cast a vote – it really matters.
I have nothing but admiration for the Gretas of the world. What I would like to do is to inject some optimism.
Don’t panic – invest your talent, your time and your money in the transition. Build the business case for going sustainable.
You are more powerful than you think.