Global Sustainability Network. (GSN)

Tackling Climate Change, Slavery And Sustainability

Part ZERO. Sustaining Through Reporting

A Reflective Overview & Introduction. The Summary Of The Strategic Planning Session. Lambeth Palace. 14th December 2015


There are TWO documents here. They’ve emerged from the Strategic Planning Session on the 14th December.

Immediately below there’s an objective perspective which arrives at 11 Themes which we think are worth noting. Then there’s a précis of the conversation on the day (ONE below).

We have interpreted the conversation both visually and verbally.

ONE: The Précis:

We hope that the distillation has caught the key ideas and that the visuals themselves act in some way to stimulate more thinking. It’s a work in progress of course. There’s no suggested order in which of these three you read first.

It is possible, and will be very valuable to keep the conversation alive. So — to add comments directly onto this document highlight the word or sentence and a small menu will open. You may be asked to simply sign on.

The 11 Themes:

What An Incredible Few Hours

Looking at the results of the team’s work we wanted to give an objective overview.

By looking at the conversations from a distance, and through the lens of the ‘exam question’, a number of themes began to emerge for us and we felt them to be worthy of note. The numbering correlates to the image that we created for the exam question.

A1. A Wholly Complex Context

There Are Multiple Definitions Of Society & Culture

With such a topic there are bound to be many different views about what is right and wrong — and what is valued. The truth is that changing perceptions will NOT be achieved with a single argument.

A2. An Endemic Problem Of The Worst Kind

The Profitability Of Human Trade

There are many incentives for people to exploit others for financial gain and as a result many people profit. It’s therefore a thriving business with a strong hold in countless sectors and at multiple levels. It will be defended with vigour.

A3. The Enemy Is Playing By A Different Code

The Informal Nature Of The Business

This is not a ‘regulated sector’ and not even recognised as a business — even though it’s a significant proportion of global trade. It displays all the characteristics of organisations like the Mafia and many others — all of them operating entirely to their own codes.

A4. A Wickedly Entangled Web Of Deceit

The Breadth of Complicity

Many legitimate organisations are also playing their part, albeit perhaps unwittingly. And even if the reality is made clear to them they have a lot to lose by changing their practices — it will often be easier to remain in denial.

A5. A Commercial Addiction

The Global Obsession with Financial Gain

This theme makes the previous ones even more significant. As societies we place MONEY above other values. It’s often what drives peoples behaviours and justifies their actions. The laws and policies make this entrenched — even statutory.

It will be extremely hard to shift and reprioritise these values.

A6. The Chain Of Chains

The Complexity of Supply Chains

The more global the business the more places there are for the activity to be ‘hidden’ from view. This means many stakeholders and connected players — untangling this will require deep understanding and courage. It will have real implications for many and everyone involved.

7. I Want It And I Want It NOW!

Indifference To The Source Of Supply

Another theme that’s related to complicity. Consumers rarely check that the things they buy have been ethically produced. They just want to be able to get what they want. Education and engagement at scale will be a major theme in changing this.

8. A Growing Realisation

A Growing Collective Consciousness

Balancing many of the previous themes there are changes in attitude — it’s getting easier for the issues to be aired and for greater awareness to develop. As consumers we are now starting to vote for more ethical solutions — choosing to buy more sustainable products and services.

9. A Fickle Media

The Selective Nature of Media Coverage

This plays to many of the other dynamics and is key to influencing public opinion — and as a consequence political/corporate attitudes and priorities. The tendency for the general public is to believe what’s ‘printed’ and not to seek the proof or to see the real picture.

10. On Certain Terms

The Competitive Dimension of Doing Good

Just because an organisation is an NGO (or equivalent) doesn’t mean they don’t have their own agendas. Working towards a collective purpose in a unified or orderly way can’t be taken for granted.

11. Who’s Driving?

The Definition/Motivation Behind ‘Social Responsibility’

Every business has a very different view of what that means and why/how they might play their part. It’s often not because they actually care about the topic but because it suits a particular objective, fashion or purpose.

All Of This Is Truly A Wicked Problem

Making Our Difference Make A Difference. @JohnCaswell + @Tifferly.

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