We had it. We broke it. We’ve still got time to fix it.
This was the running theme of TEDx Glasgow’s Make Or Break event which took place at the Engine Works on 7th October 2021, for which Xodus is a partner. In the true spirit of TED, the purpose of the event was to spark conversation and engage the wider community to embrace climate opportunities and take the action needed to shape a desirable future for our society. To this end we were treated to talks from six inspirational speakers from wildly different walks of life, each of whom is taking action to tackle climate change and to encourage and lead the changes in thinking and attitudes that are vital if climate change is to be successfully managed and mitigated.
Jarvis Smith, owner and creator of My Green Pod, with his long hair and chilled vibes, was closest to the image many have of climate activists. He talked about the power of mindful consumption, of only investing in products that minimise the harm done to planet and society, and of the strong signal each purchase sends to businesses about what consumers expect and desire. Harvard-graduate and Oxford scholar, Charmian Love then took the stage advocating for businesses as a force for good. As co-founder of B Lab UK, Charmian works with companies to become certified B Corps where they are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and environment, thereby balancing profit and purpose. The first half was completed with an interview with Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, who explained the need for more joined-up thinking on the climate crisis. Everyone is working on their own issues in siloes when what we need is systemic change requiring collaboration across society. While leaving the comfort of one’s own sphere can be challenging, joined-up thinking and collaborations create opportunities for innovation that can be very exciting.
After a short intermission (with lively folk music), the talks resumed with John Elkington, author and entrepreneur, providing the best metaphor of the evening through the need to cease being “caterpillar corporations” that mindlessly consume with the sole goal of getting bigger. Chrysalitic change is required by all to transform into entities that don’t simply take from (caterpillars) but feed into (pollinating butterflies) the systems on which we all depend. Fiona Morgan, director of purpose and impact at SailGB, took to the stage in style riding in on an electric scooter and a sporting a bright pink suit,. She explained how sport – in its universality, accessibility, and competitive spirit – is the perfect conduit for climate action. She’s created the Impact League, whereby each crew competes against each other to minimise their ecological footprints, and has been approached by other sports looking to create similar programs within their own organisations. The evening ended with the contagious optimism of Adam Dorr, environmental social scientist and technology theorist from RethinkX, who painted a picture of how technological innovations will transform global energy, transport, and food systems such that we can limit climate change while simultaneously embracing faster, cheaper, and cleaner ways of living.
The latest IPCC report made it clear that the next decade is going to be make or break for humanity’s ability to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and limit the damage caused by anthropogenic climate change. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done and it is easy to be overwhelmed and lose hope. Events such as TEDx Glasgow are refreshing in their almost belligerent optimism and provide a much-needed reminder that we do still have time to act, that people in all walks of life are already paving the way for the change we need to see, and that a desirable future for ourselves and our descendants remains within our grasp.
COP 26 – the biggest UN Climate Conference since the Paris Agreement was signed – is happening in Glasgow in the first fortnight of November. Global leaders will meet to (hopefully) increase their commitments to reduce emissions and to work out how best we can limit global warming to “well below 2°C”. They cannot achieve this on their own, and the speakers of the TEDx Glasgow event showed they won’t have to. Every person and company on the planet needs to do their part. We need to be conscious in our investment decisions, strive for purpose not just profit, seek to be more joined-up in our thinking, embrace transformation, compete to be the best we can be, and embrace new technologies. And, as with TEDx, we need to tell each other about what we’re doing, be transparent about what’s working and why, and be open to asking others for support when we need it. To this end, Xodus is launching an internal COP26 discussion where we will be talking about the actions we are taking, both as individuals and as an organisation, to reduce our carbon footprints. We’d love to hear about the actions that you and your companies are taking also! Let’s spark a conversation and start this make-or-break decade as we need to go on.