Friday, August 5, 2011

Creating a sustainable future is the leadership challenge of our time, for Göran Carstedt, the Chairman of the Natural Step International. With the experience of senior positions in IKEA and Volvo, he is one of Europe’s most prominent business leaders and a leading advocate of sustainability. He was giving a ‘Caux Lecture’ at the ‘Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy’ conference in the Initiatives of Change centre in Caux, Switzerland, this evening. ‘A sustainable future has to be seen as desirable,’ the good news is that all the necessary ingredients to succeed are within our grasp, the Swedish business leader suggested.

Göran Carstedt speaking during the Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy conference 2011. (Photo: Maha  Ashour)‘The future has to be created not to be predicted,’ he said, stressing that human energy and creativity was the common denominator in all the firms that he had worked for. The birth-pains of a new age were uncomfortable, but the old industrial, linear way of thinking was coming to an end, he said. In the new world of ideas, ‘the more we share, the more we have,’ and ‘there is a shift from holding on to sharing’. The classic model of the partners of business, customers, co-workers, society, shareholders had given way to ‘the modern concentration on shareholder value alone’, which is ‘as stupid as saying that the purpose of life is oxygen’.

Living systems are circular, naturally recycle, he went on. ‘We’re playing Russian roulette with our future. The Earth is a closed system; it can’t be negotiated, only accepted,’ Carstedt continued. ‘The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the eco-system.’ He stressed ‘the power of powerful examples’, and gave encouraging examples of rapid changes for the better in China and the United States. Such change has become ‘more than an ethical imperative, it is a decisive business imperative’. We need more inspiration from biological processes and less from the mechanical, he said, noting that a human birth takes 9 months no matter how many people you put on the project! ‘People don’t mind change but they don’t like being changed,’ Carstedt said, but ‘we have to redefine “we”; we have to understand that we are all part of the same ‘we’ now.’

Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I have a plan’ or ‘I have a nightmare’, but ‘I have a dream’, Carstedt concluded. ‘The earth needs a new operating system. We must do what needs to be done. How can we all become agents for large-scale transformational change, rather than anxious critics of the present? People need to have a meaningful cause to give their best, and all of us can be part of a million small beginnings where we are.’

The ‘Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy’ conference, the last of the four of this season at the Initiatives of Change centre continues until 8 August. It is exploring ways to help create a just and equitable global economy, against the backdrop of the economic crisis in Greece and its impact on the EU economies and the US debt ceiling debacle. The conference is attended by over 200 participants, including businessmen, industrialists, economists, environmentalists, students and concerned individuals.

>> Further information about the international Caux conferences 2011

>> Download Göran Carstedt's speech