A Challenging Journey: Driving Change for Tomorrow’s Leaders?

Tag: EAUCConf16

A Challenging Journey: Driving Change for Tomorrow’s Leaders? image #1

This keynote session was delivered by Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Marks and Spencer, at the “Learning and Legacy: The Role of Education in Creating Healthier and Happier Cities” EAUC Annual Conference 2016.

2015 was a key year in the sustainability debate.

With the agreement of the COP21 Climate Deal and the launch of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals global policy makers marked the point at which we accepted that making our existing 20th Century economy ‘less bad’ was simply not enough. We had to begin the long, challenging journey to build a new 21st Century Economy, one that works for all – people, planet and profit.

They had recognised that the economic, social and environmental pressures that now lean into our way of life are simply too great to be addressed by tinkering around the edges.

  • Environmentally the planet does not have the capacity to support the scaling up of westernised consumption practised by 1 bn people today into developing markets where 3 bn middle class consumers are emerging, there literally aren’t enough fish in the sea for everyone to live like us. Nor does the planet have the capacity to absorb the carbon pollution we release into the atmosphere and the plastic into the oceans.
  • Socially inequality has risen creating unsustainable gulfs between those that have (wealth, opportunity, skills) and those that don’t. Growing populations, migration and new wellbeing challenges acerbate the sense that society and the economy are not working in the best interests of all.
  • Finally an economic revolution is coming (drones, driverless cars, internet of things, 3D printing, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics) that will have a profound impact on how we live our lives and how we consume. Some of this will be for the good, some not.

These pressures and our growing response to them (COP21, SDGs etc.) mean we have to re-shape dramatically how we educate, how we consume, how we participate in democratic decision making

We will see new business models that are low carbon, circular and grounded in equality and wellbeing.

Cities will become at least as important as nation states in shaping how our lives are governed – small enough to flex and adapt, big enough to make a scale difference.

And universities need to change too. They need to be the hothouse for ideas on new business and new democracy. They need to promote a more joined up approach to living our lives where we are able to reach beyond our immediate specialisms and see how ‘everything is connected’.

And in helping create this new economy and society, universities need to be exemplars too of a new sustainable approach to living, across their campuses, teaching, research, employment practices and relations with their local communities.

Universities have a choice – to be on the front foot shaping the future or to wait and let the future happen around them, constantly playing catch up.

We need to build a coalition of university leaders, the experienced and the new, committed to driving this change and capturing the benefits that will accrue to those that lead rather than follow.

To find more presentations and resources from this Conference, search for EAUCConf16.