The Optimising Sustainability Performance confernce

20 May 2010 – Calling for increased urgency, a community focus and networked solutions to solving the problems of climate change, Professor Richard Hames,  delivered a stirring address to the delegates of the Optimising Sustainability Performance conference hosted by the 3 Pillars Network in Sydney on 13 May.

Recently described as “one of the century’s most foresightful corporate philosophers,” Professor Hames, founding director of the Asian Foresight Institute at Dhurakij Pundit University in Thailand, did little to avoid the state of urgency that the world faces in climate change.

“None of the urgency of sustainability is reflected in the corporate media, government or public at large. Things are happening much faster than we actually know. Because of that we’re trapped by our own invention.

“The global situation sees us all facing a meltdown of three meta-systems crucial to the world; the environment, with the irresponsible consumption of 6 billion people; energy and the economy. The economy is bust globally. The moral authority of the US has tumbled. The economy is as broken as the environment, based on compound interest and debt, which is not sustainable.

“Put the three together and you see a global meltdown.”

The theme of the speech were Professor Hame’s “acupuncture points,” specific areas in which urgent action can be taken in the face of climate change.

“How can you raise the urgency of sustainability? I was originally a doctor and I was drawn to acupuncture, so I look for the acupuncture points.

“We need to get together and thrash out what our goals and targets are. It must be shared and unified and transcend current practice. Because of the rate of change at the moment, what we are doing now will not be enough. We need to transcend.

“We need to engage all players to talk about a viable, whole system design.

“It is important to increase networked intelligence. From all the people you know, find out from them what is going on in your world, use them as a door to their networks, to gain information and networked intelligence. Don’t rely on the corporate media, there is no truth there.

“The more sources and networks you have, the more triangular your networked intelligence. We need to derive strategy from this network intelligence.”

The professor also pointed to countries like Brazil as an example to Australia of what government’s political will can achieve.

“Brazil is taking leadership because they have been convinced of the urgency. They have committed to cutting deforestation of the Amazon by 80 per cent and cutting their carbon emissions by 40 per cent. These two things are the acupuncture points for Brazil that will release prosperity, not sacrifice.

“Brazil, China, India and even parts of Africa and the Middle East are finding these acupuncture points. In the future we will be looking to China for the models for climate change.”

Becoming more intelligent about how to approach climate change and achieving this as a community was another theme of the speech.

“You need to step up to be leaders. You need intelligence, not necessarily IQ but to be able to process information into intelligence. You need to find ways of gearing up to step into that strategic role.

“Sustainability is important enough to be part of the executive team of a corporation. A corporation will be judged by their integrity and ethics around sustainability.

“Eighty per cent of our time is taken up by compliance measures – codes, protocols, regulations that slow corporations down. We should be leading, not attending to compliance measures.

“We need to create long term value in perpetuity. We need to step up, find acupuncture points, and work as a community. More and more it is becoming harder for an individual alone to find solutions. There is a new consciousness around the world making sense of things, a willingness to cooperate.”

The professor detailed how we as a community can take action, through what he termed the RAISE factors:

“Responsiveness to use intelligence as soon as it happens.

“Responsibility, that is, knowing that it isn’t my fault but it is my responsibility.

“Adaptiveness. We need to be able to adapt fast, to change as fast as change is happening.

“Affiliation to expand networks.

“Intelligence in terms of strategic intelligence, what is actually happening, not what we’re told is happening.

“We must have intentionality, which is the first sign that you want to improve or achieve something.

“Systemicity. We currently use linear thinking that evokes a lot of trade offs. We need to use systemic thinking.

“An awareness of emergence; the things that happen that we can predict.

“Ecority, or the relationship we have with the planet.

The speech concluded with an admonition for those in the green community to take initiative and engage the problems of climate change as a collective.

“The challenge to you is to step up as a community, not as an individual. Step up into a different gear and transcend what you have been doing. This is called leadership.”