Posted on 22nd July 2019

Deborah Meaden: Business woman and TV personality

Climate change is going to be a truly awful thing if we don’t get our minds wrapped round it, but when forced to look at things in a different way a glimmer of hope usually emerges. Dealing with the issue of our sustainability is going to spark change and change is usually good. I put my faith in human beings, they are amazing.

There exists however a peculiarity of the human condition, one that makes us less skilled at dealing with crises until they are right under our noses. In all industries, foresight makes for good business and whether it is carbon taxes or electricity shortages, most business leaders are aware of how things might be different within our lifetimes. What has not happened is engagement with the urgency of the problem. And it is urgent.

Looking across the broadcast industry and others, I can see the beginnings of something innovative: proactive people choosing to operate in a different way rather than reacting to pressures put upon them. When I first did Dragons’ Den I was the loopy green dragon, but environmental issues are now mainstream for all of us.

Action on sustainability requires us to consider things from waste management to living wages. It is a complex agenda but we are complex individuals capable of dealing with more than one thing at a time. I don’t understand why people feel they need a mandate to behave well. Leadership helps but it is about being a responsible individual and doing what you can. People shouldn’t feel tasked with behaving well either, they need to be supported in understanding the obstacles we are all facing and then get on and do it. The reality is that those who don’t will be risk feeling irrelevant.

I like to think of sustainability not a project but as the foundation of responsible business. Organisations move closer towards this understanding when a forum exists to speak openly about challenges and solutions. Creating this opportunity requires a small push from senior leaders to recognise the issue as important but once that happens, the rest falls into line.

The media has an important part to play should it choose to take it. We could challenge the glaze that covers the eyes of some when talking about sustainable living – for too long sustainability has been about what we must not do, but that will never be a successful approach. The media has the capability to define a vision and create an audience appetite for it. We just need to be careful about the language we use. “Eco” and “green” are not the way forward, innovation is what is fascinating and exciting, and there is plenty of that going on.

I considered myself to be a reasonably green person but it is a movable scale; the more you learn, the greener your goals become. The more I do, the more I understand that I must do more. Facing up to climate change is a similar journey. What we will discover is that we must keep getting better and doing more. There is no point having a viewpoint on climate change, it is happening and we need to deal with it. We must all embrace it, use it as an opportunity to think about how we all really want to live and start building that world. Whether individuals, businesses and communities, I suspect we will really quite like what we find.