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I’m Grant Symons. I convene Transition Edge to help us understand how we can transition to a low carbon sustainable world using leading thinking and practices.
This week we aim to raise your awareness about transparency in a world in overshoot. And being completely transparent, we of course hope that you will enjoy what you learn and recommend the Edge to others!
How often do you hear people say, "they should be more transparent" or "we ought to be more transparent?" So, what are we not being transparent about? Why aren't we like nature itself? In nature there is no such thing as transparency, it is innate!.. nature is there, in full high-definition reality, all the time.
The concept of transparency is man-made; a feature that has evolved, and continues to. It seems that as we have developed our technologies, institutions, professions, social skills and societies, in ever increasingly complex ways, so too has our need for some level of opaqueness?!
How else might we avoid the issues of not being able to cope with all this complexity, not looking like we have all the answers, covering for the mistakes we make, the shortcuts we have to take...or the unfair advantages we have accrued or inherited? Perhaps the opaqueness is part of our plan, our business and our success?
There is much more to transparency than we can cover in a short article, so today we want to drill into two specific questions:
- Is being transparent about our normal (Business as usual) activities enough, or are we letting ourselves blindly slip further into ecological overshoot?
- Are we heading towards radically increased transparency anyway?
In this man-made conception, it seems there is a continuum of how transparent individuals and entities of all descriptions can be.
At the formal end of the spectrum, we have organisations like Transparency International NZ
,whose mission is to eliminate bribery and corruption
through a range of activities, including increasing awareness of that which is morally and legally wrong and advocating for ongoing development of organisational cultures that support truth telling. According
to their website, New Zealand is the 3rd least corrupt country in the world, slightly behind Finland and Denmark, while we remain a highly trusted entity in the Pacific.
Such organisations play a significant role collecting data, publishing reports, education and generally encouraging organisations to play by the rules and being able to show that they are doing so. This is an extremely valuable contribution to society and the economy in general. It helps our trade relationships and must save the country a lot of money.
And then there are those in the legal profession that are advocating for increasing the exposure and prosecution of those who are perpetuating climate change and environmental harms. This movement is gaining momentum and by virtue of the judicial process is likely to lead to further and ongoing public airing of dirty laundry!
But...is this enough, given the state of the world?
Although this is good news, if we are concerned about ongoing exposure and prosecution of poor business as usual behaviour, we are left wondering if this is enough? Are we making ecological overshoot and our lack of action transparent enough? ...what progress are we making on the existential threats the world faces?
Much of what we read in Corporate ESG (Environmental Social Governance) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) reports might purport to be baring the organisations inner most secrets about all of the good things it is doing and planning to do about Climate change, emissions and equity, while it continues with business as usual. What we are probably getting is some carbon counting, green-wash and weasel words
crafted by the marketing department. Nothing illegal or corrupt... just playing the game...at the edge of ethics and well short of meaningful change.
So on the one hand organisations - particularly commercial ones - can officially 'be transparent'...whereas in reality, they are knowingly continuing with harmful activities (perpetuating ecological overshoot) just waiting for the day that someone catches on and forces them to change. At which point they say "Oh yeah, of course, good point, we'll get on to that immediately!"
But, what if we look beyond what is lawful and unlawful? What if we based our standards of transparency, our values, processes and products on what is scientifically and morally aligned with the real transition to a prosperous and sustainable future in-sync with nature. One that avoids ecological overshoot? Might
that different degree of transparency be what society and people are really wanting? YES!