It’s time to reassess the best direction for the journey towards sustainable business

I vividly recall listening in early 2005 to a BBC Radio 4 play, Playing for Time – 3 days in May 1940(i), in which Winston Churchill’s long-serving personal detective, WH Thompson, described travelling in the car with Churchill, down the Mall from Buckingham Palace, after Churchill had been appointed as prime minister. Thompson congratulated the new leader, who replied: “I hope it is not too late.” Thompson added that never again did he hear Churchill express doubts about eventual victory.

A few days later, I heard Al Gore give his An Inconvenient Truth lecture. I wondered then whether Gore had also pondered whether it was “too late” to save the earth but had concluded, like Churchill, that leadership required projecting absolute confidence in ultimate success; because without that, it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Many times since then, as yet more data about climate change, resource depletion and environmental degradation emerges, I have thought back to that Churchill-Gore juxtaposition. Indeed, Gore himself in his most recent book The Future, according to one reviewer, “seems to have left optimism behind a long time ago”(ii).

Warnings and optimism

In his 2011 book, The Great Disruption,(iii) Paul Gilding, the Australian writer and sustainability campaigner, combined dire...

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