Vive la Revolution!


Taking part in the Business Climate Summit, Paris, the pre-cursor to COP 21 in December, has been an emotional and political rollercoaster ride through highs and lows of  inspiring future facing commitment voiced with integrity and hope by world leading businesses through to death knell absurdities from some coal and oil men, apparently not able to acknowledge the damage that their assertions could cause.

Hope included exemplars from the fashion industry where rousing speeches by Marie Claire Deveu from Kering, Hannah Jones from Nike and Mike Barry from M&S all demonstrated that, to paraphrase Marie-Claire Daveu, fashion is about the zeitgeist but it is also about challenging the present to form a better future. Our five-year partnership with Kering working towards a better future through exchange between academia and industry will bear this out! 

Hearing about the latest iteration of the Nike making app, with CO2 info included, which we worked on with Nike teams, evidenced the importance of what happens when we bring our ideas to BA students who disrupt them, challenge them and together we shape them into tools for a generation of designers to ‘better make’ their collections.  We’ve worked with M&S too, on their Shwopping campaign, to develop practices of gifting no longer worn pieces back to extend their value through second and other lives. 

Seeing these guys on stage together reminded me of what great company we keep!

The importance of exchange between leading businesses and their ‘knowledge in action’ and education as exploration of ‘knowledge in waiting’ was stated through an early statement in the proceedings:

 ‘we are the first generation to be really aware of climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it.’

The French President took this further in saying ‘this means a revolution in how we produce, in how we consume and in how we live.’

It was interesting to listen to the lexicon of ‘battle’ voiced through some speakers talking of fighting climate change, the scarcity to be overcome and what we need to tackle in the years to come, (all male speakers!) contrasted by others (mainly the few women on stage) who spoke of balance with nature, collaboration, peace and of nature’s beauty as the point of reference. One of my favourite moments, in the innovation themed session, was a voice from the audience asking if the panel knew what the greatest innovation we could talk about was…what? the convenor asked… TREES was the answer, of course! Nature is the greatest innovator, we still have much to learn from millions of years of its symbiotic systems. 

Maybe one of the greatest human inventions is the city, developed to draw people together to exchange food, to offer shelter and to create connection and belonging with each other, it was cities, energy and land use that formed the main areas for consideration in relation to ambition to remain within a 2 degree rise in temperature in a world of many more people than today.

Some big questions remain – can we stop the subsidies for fossil fuel, currently fossil fuels are subsidised by $10m a minute!

Should we tax the bad stuff, can a carbon or a pollution tax make doing the right thing a more accessible thing to do whilst reducing poverty and inequity?

Can the excitement about resource efficiency be sure not to diminish the need for transformation at a wider systems level?

Lets not forget to place nature and the centre and social innovation as the means to make the miracle that Francois Hollande anticipates for Cop 21.

I leave with some hope, the call to the room was not are you an optimist or a pessimist, it was that we must all be activist – although I’m not sure if the true definition of this as social change was what some of the suits had in mind!