A recent Guardian Sustainable Business article gives food for thought for businesses and sustainability practitioners alike.
The principal thrust of the argument is that one of the most pressing of sustainability issues, climate change, is inherently scientific, yet businesses do not sufficiently see science as a driving force behind the key strategic decisions they make. The article finished by pondering whether soon businesses will demand “more science, better predictions, and solid information that will drive innovation and lead us away from the precipice”.
This seems odd as many companies really are passionate about science. There is constant news of the business need for STEM skills in the workforce. Innovation pushes businesses ahead of their competitors. Data-driven exercises and scientific modelling can better prepare businesses for future trends. All of this can contribute to sustainability, as well as the bottom line.
In terms of climate change, many large multinational companies do now accept the science. And many of them invest in, and laud, their initiatives to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Some companies are clearly less enthusiastic than others but very few large ones don’t accept the science.
So why the pessimism of this article? The author points out that a recent study of CEO attitudes towards sustainability only mentioned science twice. Clearly those surveyed have a great role to play in taking the initiative against climate change, meaning an open acknowledgment of science’s role would provide great reassurance. CEOs are business representatives that have to speak to their stakeholders. This position means it’s unlikely they’ll openly cite detailed scientific concepts. What it doesn’t mean, however, is that science plays little role in the decisions they make about the strategic direction of their businesses behind the scenes.
Clearly there is equilibrium to be made between business strategy, sustainability, and scientific reasoning. Businesses can, and should, embrace science to future proof not only themselves, but the communities and environments in which they operate.