To My Super Smart Sustainability Friends
I totally get why you do what you do. And we have alternatives.
This is an edited version of a recent email thread with a friend who is knowledgeable and experienced in corporate sustainability. I sanitized the text because the specific people and the company we were discussing don’t matter. The point is the role of Sustainability Inc — i.e. the individuals and consultancies working to support corporations on their sustainability journeys.
It’s a role I believe needs to seriously change (hence my changing). I explain to my friend in rather blunt detail why.
The text consists of my own words (edited for anonymity), with subheader prompts edited from my friend’s responses. In other words, you’re joining partway into an edited conversation, but I’m sure you’ll catch up.
If I follow the plot correctly, this company sold many billions worth of products in 2021, 100% of which were designed and intended to amplify monocrops that devastate soil, water, and the health of humans and non-humans. This is literally killing us. Their climate story is missing massive amounts of context (part of the carbon tunnel vision issue) while sweeping the elegant beauty of dynamic life on earth away, in the name of shareholder returns.
It’s really not okay.
Holding this awareness, combined with an awareness of the recently proven ability for industry to radically pivot if it chooses (see: pandemic), tells me that we’re past the incremental stage, and are now in the radical truth and transformation stage.
The good news is we have huge resources and talent to deploy the real pivots. The less good news is we’re still not collectively allowing this awareness to be felt.
To be a little more blunt, this company’s sustainability story and goals are part of the problem. They indicate an acceleration in the wrong direction, in parallel to their business model. Based on what the company signals to its investors about its strategy, combined with the way it seems to think it is already addressing ESG concerns, I am not optimistic.
Anything short of serious intervention is too short at this point, in this little human’s opinion.