Big change in Big Business

Big change in Big Business

The people who realise how serious the climate situation is are the more intelligent members of society and those with a longer view, whatever the reason. They may have grandchildren or great grandchildren who they want to see survive and enjoy a good life on earth. They may be animal lovers who want to keep the species we have. They may be property owners who want to see the next generations inherit and maintain their estates for other generations to come.  Each of these individuals is taking steps, albeit often little ones, to help set things right.

When it comes to the CEO of a big business s/he must establish what the shareholders really want for their investments and must try to provide it. Shareholders invariably want the perfect company. That is, one that produces the highest profits, pays the biggest dividends, maintains the maximum share price and contributes the most to climate stabilisation. Responsible shareholders must be able to weigh up the value of lower dividends and a bigger contribution to the climate. It is a sad commentary on the PR Campaign for Climate Correction that cooperation is seldom mentioned whereas individual contribution is the perpetual theme.

In practice, cooperation is the only means by which we may save the planet.

The CEO and board of a big business will, of course, have a say in what shareholders get and what the business does towards saving the climate.They have the power to decide the balance between the various options. However, they must keep the shareholders as happy as possible if they are to retain the share price in the market. Increasingly over the years the CEO has increased his or her influence over decisions like these. So he or she is now in a strong position to determine what the company actually does about its carbon footprint. They must now decide what their stance is and how they are going to present it to the stakeholders.

Mindful as they undoubtedly are of shareholders’ anxiety about dividends, they will nevertheless have to use their influence to shift the business’s behaviour in the right direction – and a good deal faster than they care to do so. This is one area in which top people should be advised and helped to cooperate. Normally, these people are discouraged from cooperating since doing so could involve price fixing which is rightly illegal. Discussions among competitors has, in the past, often  proved disadvantageous to the consumer. Now is a time when we must lower the barrier to that on the grounds of survival. Of course price fixing and all its variants will remain illegal but the only way to save the climate from almost total disaster is to cooperate.

Throughout business, CEOs know when and how to set targets. My own preference is to let people set their own targets and I have a way of making that a great deal more difficult than it at first appears. I think the system I employ can be used to encourage individual managers of cost and profit departments to set higher targets than they might otherwise do. Over-simply put, they set their targets in cooperation with those for whom they are responsible – the leaders in their area of control, the people who will benefit from the bonus attached to the achievement of the target. They all get a high bonus for achieving the target and an increasingly higher one for setting an ever more demanding target. If they fail the target they set, for any reason, no bonus.

It’s a tough system but it worked for me and can work today by setting disproportionately higher bonus rewards for seriously higher targets. After all it is the people who actually do the work who will save the planet, whoever sets the target and however it is set. And doing so is going to be hard work and some pain – however they are able to contribute. Good, medium sized countries like some of the Scandinavians and some of the South Asians might consider setting their own targets jointly with other countries. As a gesture of cooperation it might inspire greater countries to do the same. Countries that cooperate increase the chance of planet survival.

There is little more threatening than drought, fire and flood.

We need cooperation, not competition, to repel them.

Good morning

John Bittleston

Do you have an ingenious way to stimulate greater cooperation to save the planet?    

If you do, please tell Zoey at