Throughout my life I’ve been passionate about the environment and social justice.
I believe there are few challenges greater than climate change and finding a way to transition our society to a clean, low carbon, renewable energy future.
We need to shift our collective focus from economic indicators of progress to more meaningful measures of sustainability, wellbeing, social responsibility and modernising our governance approach.
Below are some thoughts and reflections on a few policy areas I think deserve greater focus.
Low carbon renewable energy
Transitioning to a low-carbon economy presents both a significant opportunity and an enormous challenge.
An opportunity in that low-carbon solutions, including clean energy technologies, and the transformation of the energy sector, will stimulate economic growth and new local industries.
Simultaneously, this transition presents a challenge given the significant investment required to transform organisations and economies that have been reliant on fossil-fuel based energy.
A successful transition will require close coordination between researchers, policy makers, governments and capital. At the core of which will be a partnership between the university research sector, and all levels of government working with innovative, socially responsible private industry with a focus toward clean energy technology and doing things in a way that promotes environmental sustainability.
Divestment out of Fossil Fuels
An ethical lens, including assessing climate risks, should be applied to all actions including investments. For me this means fully divesting from companies associated with all fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas) as well as tobacco and arms manufacturing.
While individuals may have a strong view on what is ethical and what is not, what this means for each organisation should be determined through community consultation and engagement with a broad range of stakeholders and the wider community.
Social responsibility is the idea that an corporation or organisation should embrace its social responsibilities and not be solely focused on maximising profits or operational efficiency and sustainability.
Building a positive relationship with the society and environment in which organisations operate is a critical factor in their ability to continue to operate effectively.
Social responsibility is also increasingly being used as a measure of their overall performance.
Health and Safety
No social responsibility is more important than providing a safe and healthy environment. A safe and a healthy environment is one where no-one comes to harm and there are wellbeing initiatives and public health promotion activities.
While a healthy and safe work environment is good for an organisations operational efficiency it should also be seen as a fundamental social responsibility.
Achieving wellbeing has been the concern of philosophers since Aristotle, and is, in many respects the essence of human existence.
In recent times wellbeing has moved from the realm of philosophy into the mainstream.
There is a growing body of research into what contributes to the quality of people's experiences of their lives and a new understanding of the factors that influence and constitute wellbeing.
Influenced by this research and my own life experience wellbeing for me means having:
- a sense of individual vitality
- opportunities to engage in meaningful, fulfilling activities that encourage feelings of competence and autonomy
- a stock of inner resources to help cope when things go wrong and be resilient to changes beyond your immediate control.
Freedom of Association
Rights to freely organise, take industrial action and unions rights to represent the rights and interests of workers to better pay and conditions is both a legal and social responsibility.
In a time of economic disruption, social change and increasing income inequality, freedom of association principles remains a fundamental human right.
As a former union advocate and a union member throughout my working life, I believe unions are a social good and people's rights to freedom of association should be actively supported as part of our social responsibility and good governance.
Good governance is central to environmental sustainability as well as social and economic wellbeing.
Good governance creates environments that support good management, through cooperation, transparency and compliance among relevant stakeholders.
The world's existing governance structures have failed, and continue to fail, in addressing climate change, preventing war, responding humanely to the refugee crisis and in addressing sustainable development goals.
Existing governance structures need to be reformed to more purposefully and effectively support better social and environmental outcomes impose limits on environmental and social exploitation, unequal distribution of wealth and the continuing extraction of fossil fuels.
To avoid a devastating climate and environmental crisis will require a massive level of mobilisation to transform our economic and social systems into more sustainable ways of being.
This will require evolved, more resilient and robust governance structures capable of carrying through with the necessary reforms with enough strength to stand up to vested interests.
I believe the best governance systems are highly polycentric involving many agencies and levels of government.
Such a governance regime sounds, at first glance, highly susceptible to bureaucratic inertia and vulnerable to grid locked decision-making, however organising and governing through multiple centres of influence is a more inclusive, resilient and ultimately sustainable governance approach, leading to better outcomes.
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