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Wake up and smell the 21st century coffee – three post Anthropy challenges for boards

Updated: May 2




SUMMARY

1.    Do you understand the ways in which your business future depends on nature and nature-based solutions? If not, how will you educate yourself?

2.    As the climate emergency unfolds, do you feel that our current political governance is fit for purpose? If not, what are you doing about it?

3.    Do you agree that more needs to be done now to empower and learn from the community pioneers and young people who will bear the brunt of the pain to come? How will you start in your own business?

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INTRODUCTION

At Anthropy 2023 I met and was impressed by a several community pioneers. Cornishman Simon Ryan wasn’t prepared to see three empty coastguard cottages being sold to second home owners. He credits Cornwall Council for making success possible there and that has led on to more social housing projects.

There was Charlotte Hollins, whose family had been tenant farmers for generations, and organic farmers at Fordhall Farm since World War Two. Threatened with eviction by the landowners, she and her brother raised £800,000 investment in £50 shares to create England’s first community-owned farm.

I recall these stories of hope alongside the widespread frustration among Anthropists at the failures of many in our system to wake up and smell the twenty-first century coffee.

1.   NOTICE NATURE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE 

The UK is one of most bio-diversity depleted countries in the world. We only have half of it left. We are in the bottom 10% globally. Nature in this country is in a state of neglect. Yet politicians of all parties talk glibly about economic growth without acknowledging that the only growth worth having is one which respects and works with nature.

Many people were prevented by flooding from travelling to day 2 of Anthropy . It seems absurd to pursue the type of economic growth which incorporates the continued building of houses on flood plains. Absurd that builders of new homes are still installing gas boilers which their customers will later have to rip out at a net cost of £20,000.

A narrow view of economic growth is not limited to the Conservatives. Rachel Reeves addressed the Anthropy conference a year ago and showed no enthusiasm when asked a question about the importance of natural capital.

What about the boardroom? Are your entrepreneurial antennae tuned in to nature’s importance? Dan Ryan, Learning Curator at the Eden Project recalls hosting a group of managers from the pharmaceutical industry. He talked to one who had no idea that the Madagascar Periwinkle that he was being shown was a vital ingredient in one of his own company’s cancer drugs.

2.   SEIZE THE INITIATIVE AND DISRUPT OUR FAILING POLITICAL GOVERNANCE

Disillusionment with Westminster, and the failure of our elected politicians was everywhere. Paul Drechsler, Former Chair of Teach First, reminded the conference that 39000 teachers and 1800 school principals left the profession last year. Meanwhile since 2014 there have been 9 Secretaries of State for Education. The Kingman Report on audit concluded in 2018 that the Financial Reporting Council was ‘not fit for purpose’. In spite of promises legislation on Kingman’s recommendations will not be in the 2023 Kings Speech.

Anthropy is about solutions. Yet I didn’t hear from our business leaders at Anthropy what joint action they will take to stimulate the improvement of our political governance.

Recent hearings of the COVID inquiry suggest that our decision-making does not work well in a crisis.  During World War Two much of party politics was suspended. There was abundant cross-party thinking and consensus building for policies that would pay dividends after 1945. As the global emergency intensifies we need a similar effort to suspend party differences and create some agreed ground rules for effective and widely supported government action. It is time businesses, unions, and industry associations came together to stimulate this thinking and disrupt our failing governance.

3.   ARE YOU MOBILISING THE LEADERSHIP OF THE COMING GENERATION?

Jamie Quince-Starkey, former Rolls Royce apprentice and Anthropy activist has created a company called Down to Earth Derby. Jamie’s vision is to bring nature to work to revive a declining city centre, starting with a new public garden in Bold Lane.

None of us is as smart as all of us as authors Jennifer Sundberg and Pippa Begg argued in their new book Collective Intelligence. It is time to draw the next generation fully into our deliberations. Do you have a youth board?  Are you as brave as Rolls Royce were in seconding Jamie Quince-Starkey to pursue a new project in Derby? Where are the community pioneers you could be supporting?

So, with much more to take from the rich 2023 Anthropy dialogues, here are my three initial questions for your board.

1)    Do you understand the ways in which your business future depends on nature and nature-based solutions? If not, how will you educate yourself?

2)    Are you unhappy with the current adversarial see-saw of our electoral politics? Do you agree that the coming crisis demands shared long term thinking and deliberative approaches? If so, what are you doing to make it happen?

3)    It is future generations who will bear the brunt of the climate crisis: do you agree that more needs to be done now to involve and empower emerging leaders from those generations? How will you start?

Mark Goyder is Founder of Tomorrow’s Company and Senior Advisor to the Board Intelligence Think Tank. He is the author, with Ong Boon Hwee, of Entrusted – Stewardship for Responsible Wealth Creation, published by World Scientific in 2020. He has been part of the volunteer team through which the Anthropy agenda was crowd sourced.

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