In a brilliant argument as always, The Economist explains in essence that the letters ESG (environment, social, governance, that is, the three main dimensions in which a company has to “behave well”) confuse and get us to lose focus. Each of these letters hides multiple possible impacts, often competing with each other. A company that protects employment (social) does something good even if it destroys the planet a little. A company that is very transparent in its way of working and that rejects corruption (governance) is good in G without necessarily being good in the other letters. Even within each letter, the same thing can happen: a company that removes plastic from its activity seems good… but perhaps it burns the Amazon to generate corn substitutes for it. You see the idea: if companies are judged on dozens of variables, each one can come out well in the photo by choosing positive dimensions.
Here comes the second part of the argument: according to the publication, we have to focus on the E, the protection of the environment. But here too focus is lacking. If I stop printing my event program on paper or offer corn lanyards, will I have behaved myself, even if my stage consumes the same electricity as an entire small town? According to the Economist, the E has to focus on one dimension, which has set the planet on fire this summer: emissions. The generation of CO2 is according to them the absolute urgency. All the rest has to be taken care of, without a doubt, but if “the house is on fire” as Greta says, it’s because of the emissions.
And here comes the inconvenient truth: the heart of events is often the fact of taking people from A to B (very far, or many people). And although transport is improving in terms of emissions, it continues to be our great problem. Air transport will eventually become carbon neutral, but it will take 20-30 years to see this revolution. And we have to know that beyond saving the planet, the maintenance of our activity requires taking care of this issue. It is hard for me to think that tomorrow someone will not want to go to an event because there are plastic bottles, but the fact that the combination of flights, taxis, buses is not impossible. So, as a sector, let’s take care of the lanyards, the bottles, the decorations… but let’s not focus on this: emissions are where we have to improve the most. Compensation is not a perfect way (better not to generate than to compensate), but it is an option that we will have to consider.
Obviously, there is the other side of the coin: we have to meet, this allows us to innovate, motivate teams and stimulate business activity, bring economic development to other areas, and solve big problems (the COP itself is probably a meeting impossible from a distance, what irony!). But when the planet literally burns, taking care of our generation of CO2 is a very urgent task. And our main Achilles heel. I think that all of us, this summer, have told ourselves that something has to change, not only in governments, but in our personal and professional activities. The emissions deserve more attention than the little bottles, although today they have less.