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Shapeshifting for a new world28th September 2011 by Amanda Long
Fifteen years ago, when working for Unilever on the ground-breaking Marine Stewardship Council initiative the buzzword was ‘sustainability’. The corporate world was a different place then – it was early days, corporates where getting their heads around corporate responsibility and its link to sustainability – some more than others. Sitting opposite Head Buyers for leading retailers I remember one individual saying to me - ‘…if you could just get me sustainability Amanda – that would be great.’
Now fifteen years on, working with a number of different businesses on transformational initiatives driving the sustainable business agenda forward there is a different buzz word (or in fact two words). Sitting opposite senior players in politics, business and the public sector the request is ‘…Amanda, we just want behavioural change…’
Great news! It looks like we might be progressing to drive real change at scale.
One important thing though is that we help businesses and organisations get a better understanding of what ‘behaviour change’ really means. What we are really talking about is that businesses and other organisations commit to the broader responsibility of helping people live more sustainable lives and that they see value in that through the opportunities of market taking and market making. (Ideally other reasons would be key drivers too - such as social good or a sustainable future for us all).
Beyond innovation in products, services and brands this will mean engaging in much bigger change - creating new shapes, frameworks and structures economically and socially - ‘shape shifting’ for a new world. We need to look for opportunities to shortcut here. We need to find the opportunities to drive new behaviours within the public and private sectors in order to drive new behaviours in society.
What we don’t want is to wait another fifteen years before businesses and organisations understand enough about behavioural change to act and make a positive difference at scale. It has taken that long in the private sector to get movement from corporate responsibility to sustainable business, (and even then we know we are talking about only a small number of companies who clearly get it).
Are we in the same place with behavioural change now that we were with sustainability fifteen years ago? Everybody wants it – but only a few understand it enough to get it.