Excerpts from Joseph Zammit-Lucia’s article – The art of sustainability: imagination, not spreadsheets will create change.
"Our failure to address environmental issues is not a failure of information but a failure of imagination."
Our culture is taken up with an all-pervasive pretence at rational, data-driven decision-making. Within many businesses, this culture of the rational is pushed to the extreme. Any form of emotional engagement is frowned upon. When it comes to sustainability, this is largely ineffective. First of all, data is by definition about the past.
Secondly, imagination and commitment are both affective not cognitive processes. They require emotional engagement to work. The rational, data-driven approach tends to keep us stuck in the past and the present, reducing sustainability to mere extrapolation. We reduce the amount of packaging around a product and call it sustainable. We make something out of recycled material and we call it sustainable. We jig our supply chain around and call it sustainable. Yet none of this will be sufficient to deliver a sustainable future. It will simply prolong very slightly the time it takes to hit the wall.
The businesses that will lead the way in sustainability will move away from rationally pursuing sustainability as an extension, with minor tweaks, of our unsustainable culture and lifestyle. They will start reimagining a future that is unknown, currently unimaginable and truly sustainable.
The achievement of a truly sustainability lifestyle will not pop out of a spreadsheet. It will not be achieved through technological fixes, efficiency improvements or marginally reduced use of natural resources. It requires a reimagining of the way we live, produce and do business.
The excitement lies in the fact that we still have very little idea of what that might look like. We can let our imaginations let rip. Those businesses that can build the capabilities to imagine more and imagine better will get there first.