Honesty Over Perfection: Navigating the Urgency of Climate Change in Shifting Times

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Honesty Over Perfection: Navigating the Urgency of Climate Change in Shifting Times

by Lara Birkes, Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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Addressing the urgency of #climatechange in uncertain times http://bit.ly/2v3iqI9 @HPE_LivingProg #LivingProgress
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 9:05am

We are living in a time of uncertainty, unpredictability and anxiety. So much has changed, and so fast, from policies and legislation to government priorities, leadership and expectations. At the same time we have a surge of unprecedented activism from all corners of the world. Some in reaction to change, others in support of more change. All this tells us is that we no longer can define what “normal” means.

At this month’s DS Virgin Racing Innovation Summit, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to address business leaders, including Sir Richard Branson, to discuss using our collective resources to develop long-term solutions to the demanding environmental and social challenges we rapidly face.

The business community has reached a tipping point in terms of action. We need to stop merely talking about the private sector’s role in addressing climate change, and shift the conversation to the “how”. How can we do more? How can we be more transparent? How can we learn from some, while helping others along? 

And we have reached a tipping point for our own practices too. Business can no longer focus on just individual corporate action, we need a broader diaspora of stakeholders. Our supply chains, our partners, our customers – the list goes on. Now is the time for scalable, industry-wide action.  

Thankfully, when it comes to preserving our planet, on the whole, governments, businesses and citizens have been bolder, more aggressive and even heroic in their commitments and actions of late. We’ve seen companies over the past few months have an incredible impact, benefiting their company and society.

Former GE CEO, Jeff Immelt expressed this sentiment at the recent Minds + Machines digital industry event in Paris, saying that companies “…must be resilient and learn to adjust to political volatility all over the world. Companies must have their own ‘foreign policy’ and create technology and solutions that address local needs for our customers and society.”

The recent announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord has spurred an eruption of support across the board. Local governments are forming alliances in order to set up their own climate agreements and sustainability goals; and businesses such as Amazon, Under Armour, Apple, Nike and HPE have shown support for clean energy regulations, and reaffirmed their commitment to combat climate change.

In this new landscape, people don’t expect companies to be perfect, but they do expect them to be honest. Having humility, sharing challenges, lessons learned—even in light of failure—makes corporations relatable actors in a crisis which confronts us all.

It is better to set ambitious targets for ourselves, fall short, and endeavor to understand why, then to not set far-reaching targets in the first place. After all, if this were easy, it would have been done already!

The private sector really does have a powerful role to play in positively shaping our future and driving climate action. Let us put innovation at the heart of this transformation, working to ensure we meet the energy demands of tomorrow while addressing the needs of our customers, and society concurrently.

I look forward to continuing discussions like these as businesses and citizens forge a new path forward, developing unique and innovative ways to address the challenges we all face.

Replay the livestream from the DS Virgin Racing Innovation Summit. Held at Brooklyn’s New Lab ahead of the New York Formula E race, the event saw 250 of the most influential business leaders, entrepreneurs and media discussing the role business can play in tackling climate change. 

Keywords: Environment | Hewlett Packard Enterprise | Living Progress | climate change | sustainability