Someone or other suggested we call the new masterclass series that we’ve just announced, ESG for Dummies. We didn’t. We called it ESG for the New World.
But we understand why the “dummies” bit floated up.
In an interview just posted on Thursday, Zoe Whitton, one of the bright sparks in the sustainability consultancy space, nailed it.
Whitton is managing director at Pollination, which deals with big corporates and big governments on plans for the net zero transition and nature-positive solutions so she has a good grasp of where we’re at globally on the massive challenges ahead of us.
Demand for climate-focused solutions was growing exponentially, she said.
But there’s a huge “air gap” between plans and implementation.
The barrier is the severe shortage of capacity to deliver the goods.
“Everyone wants to have the same talent, everyone wants to buy the same wind turbines. Everyone wants to approach the same financial institutions to help them do innovative new things,” she says.
But the biggest impediments by far are people with the skills to deliver the solutions we need. And among those (it’s almost boring, she confesses) is the need for general knowledge or a literacy around climate in the commercial world.
Whitton says: “We have got to get to a point where it’s all of the bankers who can identify an opportunity, build a support system, work with a company…all of the executives who can go, ‘yes, I know what climate change means and how the transition is going to play out. And I know how that relates to my company. And so I can make decisions about that and have instincts about that without needing the sustainability departments to say what to do.”
What they don’t need is £50,000 Cambridge university course, she says.
The opportunities are immense, almost as if they’re lying there on the street, waiting for someone to pick them up.
You can read similar phrases in history books about the gold rush before the turn of the 20th century.
We know that some of the biggest winners were not the gold miners but the people who looked around at the ancillary needs of the teeming hordes hoping to make their fortunes from the motherlode.
In sustainability, it’s the creative types who can think outside the box who be the same. They will do just as well as the big owners of solar or wind farms, or better maybe.
For instance, we don’t just need engineers, we need planners to work through the approvals processes for big wind and solar farms. NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe says it’s the simple shortage of planners in government to get through the approvals processes that’s holding up more renewable energy.
If you want to get your children on the solar stage Mrs Jones, how about getting them into planning school? Or building, or materials, or food production, or farming, or transport, or office furniture recycling. See Bevin Liu’s story in this edition on the big need for a sustainability bent in that side of office life. Pretty well everything needs to go through a sustainability lens today.
There are indeed opportunities everywhere. If there is one sector of the economy that will defy all the odds of a weak economy it’s the need to save this planet Existential threat will do that. And it’s why governments unleash war at times of economic downturn – it’s distracting and gives the folks something more visceral to think about. Imagine unleashing a war of climate change instead. Same impact.
But people in business and in other organisations need to connect the dots. They need to understand the broad trends that will build momentum further down the value chain beyond the big corporations and big governments who have no doubt what’s going on.
It’s why we are so excited about the masterclass series we just completed and are now launching the next series. People in the commercial world might be slow to the party but there was no doubt about the appetite in the built environment for deep learning.
Reading over the stories and edited transcripts of the Electric Ideas brought home how insightful so much of the contribution was – gold in fact.
Next will be to dig into a wider field.
So if you’ve got a brilliant story to tell, get in touch and send me a message direct, or call. If you have a great story to tell AND you want to get your name in lights while supporting The Fifth Estate, your independent industry publication (how many are there again?) then get in touch with Abdul (Abdul@thefifthesate.com.au)
But as to the title ESG for Dummies… No. If we were speaking to the broad business world it would be a reasonable title. But this is the property industry. It was one of the first to “get” climate change and sustainability – and it’s bursting with some of the most passionate, intelligent and informed people we’ve met.
Problem is this industry is moving so fast – with innovation, science, technology and brilliant breakthroughs that it’s hard to keep up.
It’s when the best players carve out some time to concentrate, check notes with their peers, and pause long enough to let the sunshine in on their work, that the gems start to shine through. That’s what we’re finding in our masterclasses.