With all the talk of restraint to ensure viability of our planet/lifestyles, dour economic forecasts (not just for Greece, Cyprus and a few others in the EU – how’s your credit rating UK?) and general feeling that life just won’t be as much fun anymore, I think it’s time for a Sustainability Party!
Of course I’m not talking about throwing a party of biblical proportions (tithe partying anyone – imagine a party in your country where you spend 10% of GDP!) or adding to the list of the world’s biggest parties in the name of sustainability (as interesting as it is to contemplate such a development). And I’m certainly not going to talk about the revision of the Sustainable Events standard (ISO 20121). And I’m definitely not going to talk about the organisation called Sustainability Party, which is seeking to promote net neutrality – though it is a worthy cause.
I’m talking about the news that Brazil has once again beaten many other CSR-focused countries to the punch, with the announcement that it will create the world’s first political Sustainability Party, Rede [which loosely means ‘network’]. It is being brought into existence by that country’s former Environment Minister and recent Presidential candidate, Marina Silva. She will be familiar to some – she was one of the bearers of the giant white Olympic flag in last summer’s Games, causing a stir in Brazil (she’s the one waving, below). According to announcers, she got the nod due to her strong environmental credentials – almost three decades of actively (and sometimes vehemently) campaigning against destruction of the Amazon rain-forests.
It seems as though she has broad popular support in Brazil, and will probably very quickly reach the 500,000 registered members she needs in order to officially receive Political Party status in Brazil. That’s not to say she will be universally welcomed – local media reports seem quite mixed – but she managed to take Brazil’s Green party to almost 20% of the presidential vote in 2010 – a number that apparently shocked the two major parties and meant that neither had a clear majority in the first round.
Sustainability Party – What will it do?
I’m very keen to see how a sustainable political party is different to other political parties. Particularly how it will be functionally different to some of the Green Parties that have had influence in many countries in the last two or more decades. Will it take on more of a role than the traditional Green Party, which is moderating ‘government policy as usual’? (as Marina mostly did in 2003 to 2009 when she was the Environment Minister for Brazil – making modifications to development applications and business practice, but not radically changing the dominant themes of business)
There are many pieces of legislation that I can imagine go beyond the green agenda, but how will they decide where to start? And how will they even decide how to decide? Perhaps their Obama-like network funding and support model will also help them formulate the most important policies.
Perhaps they will take Brazil on a path akin to that of Bhutan in recent years and change the national metrics to include things like: psychological wellbeing, health, happiness, good governance, cultural diversity and time use. It is interesting to contemplate how Brazil’s Happiness Index differ from Bhutan’s.
And how will they decide which things to tackle first? The social dislocation that plagues Brazilian cities and their characteristic slums? The corruption that, although not world leading, is still problematic for business and effective government?
Sustainability is Politics
Development of a Sustainability Party is interesting because most CSR professionals are engaged in highly political activities and often successfully navigate the power dynamics of their organisations with remarkable aplomb and success.
They have to carefully decide which things matter; usually with one eye on Senior Management’s views and the other eye on the underlings that make up the majority of the organisation. And they have to use the other eye (I know!) on other stakeholders views. All the while playing the uncomfortable dual roles of listening to all and educating all at the same time.
So a salute ultimately to all of you CSR professionals, who are head of your own unnamed political party of one or two or several hundred unsigned members. May your parties thrive and your companies be stronger as a result!
And just like we see only a handful of (may I say visionary) companies that are trying to reinvent business models with Sustainability at their core, we aren’t likely to see many more than a few exceptional visionary countries embracing Sustainability at the heart of politics.
And strangely there is probably a lesson from CSR professionals for Marina and her Sustainability Party. In order to decide what comes first, there probably needs to be the same attention paid to materiality and stakeholder engagement as is paid within organisations in relation to sustainability.
She probably already knows that lesson though…
You can read Marina’s translated blog here, thanks to the magic of google.
Small nod and a wink to Australia, which is also trying to form a Sustainability Party, but it seems like they are quite a way off having the relevant number of members needed for registration.