Our organizations are behaving like addicts: they enjoy today’s pleasures while jeopardizing their future and that of society. Organizations must look beyond their half-hearted attempts at social responsibility and towards a profound transformation that can really generate an impact.
Human beings took 496 million years to develop a neocortex. This allowed them to be the first living things to process complex thoughts, reason their decisions, and make long-term plans.
However, in modern times, this evolutionary process seems to be moving backwards. Human beings now seek satisfaction and success only in the shortest of terms. And in doing so, they jeopardize the future and undercut their long-term goals.
This short-term mindset has led to myopic societies that cannot see beyond their metaphorical noses. Or perhaps our societies can see far enough to realize what is coming, but they don’t have the vision to do anything about it. Sight without vision: it could be that humans are less intelligent than we have always assumed.
Today’s world is all about speed and faster results. For younger generations, the short term has become progressively shorter. The result is a bomb – and the timer is ticking rapidly towards zero.
A future with a future
This short-term mentality has invaded our homes, our jobs, and even our entertainment. Each dopamine hit, each tiny success, each instant gratification, each short-term result becomes addictive. And it is difficult to kick the habit.
This is not unlike a gambling addiction, except our bets are leading to a future without humanity in it. We’re all trapped in a casino while the city outside is burning. The roulette wheel, which once brought us joy and even money, is beginning to remind us of a different game altogether: Russian roulette. The short term has clouded the horizon.
That said, every era has had its challenges and we have always found a way out. There has always been someone with the vision and the guts to speak up and change the status quo.
We might think of Elon Musk as a modern example. He founded an automobile company that disrupted the industry and shook up the aerospace sector, spending billions trying to send humanity to the stars. And not content with all that, he is now taking advantage of the power of money and short-term gains in order to bring us closer to our long-term goals: along with the XPRIZE foundation, he is now offering $100.000.000 (yes, that’s eight zeros) to the first team that can develop a technology to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – and steer Earth away from global warming.
The most recent Time magazine cover has a curious protagonist on it: our ten-year deadline to meet the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. This will be a decade for action. And it’s not just one man or woman who must act: it’s everyone – and every organization.
Being more aware of the issues we face is not enough. We must change our habits, practices, and behaviors, which have taken root within us across decades. Following trends in the green bond market is also not enough. Organizations must take on the responsibilities they have avoided for so long. Their half-hearted attempts at social responsibility, we now realize, were part of that avoidance. If the following decade is to be one of action, organizations must truly and deeply transform how they operate, align themselves with the planet and its people, and commit to preserving our natural resources for the enjoyment of future generations.
To do this, organizations must understand the role they play in society and the impact they have on it. They must evolve towards a culture of sustainability and adopt a clear vision that focuses on the horizon, not on the nearest landmarks. The time to act is now. There is no other Earth.
By Gabriel Weinstein, Managing Director at OLIVIA Europa