FOR THE RECORD, WE MUST CHANGE THE SYSTEM
By John Elkington
The news that Michael Jackson was working on a song about climate change not long before his death highlights at least two things. First, it underscores the fact that, in fits and starts, the global warming issue is pushing into the popular mainstream. And we should welcome that. But, second, it also spotlights the uncomfortable fact that we are still addressing what looks set to be the defining challenge of the twenty-first century with sporadic, voluntary and often self- serving initiatives.
Clearly, if a best-selling pop star wrote a song and if it became a best-seller and if it then persuaded people to change their thinking and if that, in turn, persuaded large numbers of us to change our behaviour, then we would have some degree of cultural lift-off. But that would be a rare event indeed.
So, let's celebrate individual initiative - and let's encourage people to make a difference, however small. But let's also remember that our economic, social and political systems rarely change because we think it would be a good idea. Here's the rub: if we want to move beyond changing individual hearts, minds and behaviours to the necessary transformation of cultures, paradigms and even civilizations, then we had better get good at governance.
Simply put, this is the activity of governing. No, I know, but hold on in there. Those who govern define expectations, they grant power and, crucially, they verify and incentivise performance. So far, so boring, but here's the thing: unless we get the governance dimension of our climate change responses, we are - to put it indelicately - screwed.
Look elsewhere in Long Horizons, First Step or the Julie's Bicycle website (1) for guidance on why climate change is happening, why it is important, who is going to be impacted, how the music industry is currently responding - and what it might usefully do in future. My theme is the art and science of governance, global governance, national governance and - crucial here - industry, corporate and organisational governance.
In headlines, this is about what priorities get set, how they are tackled and who gets rewarded - or punished - as a result.
Let's start with the big picture and global governance. No question, international institutions like the United Nations, the OECD, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum pay much more attention to sustainability issues - including climate challenge - than they once did. But the unravelling of the UN COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen late in 2009 underscored just how weak global governance currently is when it comes to such issues. Effective global governance will come, but probably only - as in the case of CFCs - when we have discovered climate's equivalent of the Antarctic Ozone Hole.
Focus down to the national level - or regional level in such cases as the EU, NAFTA or ASEAN - and the situation improves a little, but questions of growth, employment and investment still largely drown out those who argue for a shift to cleaner, greener forms of development and growth. But there are bright exceptions, among them South Korea, whose President has declared the ambition that the country will become a hub for low carbon, green growth over the next 60 years.
Still, the oil spill disaster caused by the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast has dramatized the fact that even President Obama has so far failed to put in place the governance, regulatory, compliance and other systems needed to switch the United States onto a low carbon, green growth path.
Recently, we looked at the whole process of disruptive innovation - and the scaling of new solutions to challenges like climate change - and developed a simple, 5-stage ‘Pathways to Scale' model of change.
In the model, Stage 1 is Eureka! - the creative moment where new opportunities for innovative solutions become apparent. Stage 2, the Experiment, is where entrepreneurs test, prototype, fail, learn, and adapt new solutions. It is the early stage venture. Stage 3, the Enterprise, is where experiments become organisations and initiatives with more developed business models, invested in by a broad range of investors. Stage 3 is about growing a business.
Yet if anything close to system change can begin to happen, there is a need to shift the spotlight from individual enterprises to an organisation's or sector's wider influence in society and markets. Stage 4, focusing on the creation of an Ecosystem of change agents, is about creating new markets, incentives, and frameworks for solutions to diffuse and mainstream. Accelerating change is critical to embed the new cultural codes and forms of governance into the mainstream functioning of the Economy, represented by Stage 5.
While stages 1-3 are extremely important, the main focus of our attention currently is on the transition from Stage 3 to Stage 4. Moving from individual business models to broader ecosystems requires collaborative forms of leadership. This is where Julie's Bicycle and its partners are operating.
Ultimately, if anything like a truly sustainable and equitable future is to be achieved as the world pushes toward a human population of 9 (or even 10) billion, campaigns and entrepreneurial initiatives must scale up further to Stage 5 system change - typified by broad - based market and societal adoption of new mindsets, models and technologies. Success in moving from Stages 4 to 5 will involve the transformation of political priorities, governance process, market rules and cultures. Here is where the music industry can play a pivotal and transformative role. Touring - the international communications tool par excellence - can be one crucial, living vehicle for propagating the relevant messages and information, and for modelling the appropriate new behaviours.
Finally, in addition to the UK music industry's accelerating efforts to tackle climate change, it would be wonderful to see sector leaders doing two things. First, ensuring that the related priorities, targets and initiatives are hard-wired into their own governance mechanisms - and into the agendas of their Boards. And second, supporting the artists and creators, industry innovators, entrepreneurs and venture investors who are driving the transition towards a cooler, fairer economy.