People talk a lot these days about the importance of digital literacy and how it is essential if an individual is to fully participate in the knowledge economy. (Indeed, I am one of these people.) Far fewer people talk about the importance of ecological literacy but this, too, is one of the critical 21st century skills.
When the term sustainable development was first coined three decades ago, it was not too long afterwards that various groups started promoting education for sustainable development (ESD). The United Nations took the lead in this regard, and went as far as declaring the period 2005–2014 as the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD).
Viewing this objectively, it is fairly plain that we know a lot more about sustainability today than we did 30 years ago, but do we know enough? There is a lot of evidence to suggest we have a long way to go yet, and it is the corporate world where some of the biggest gaps in knowledge are to be found.
Earlier this year, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, raised a few eyebrows in his annual open letter to CEOs. In this communiqué entitled A Sense of Purpose,Fink observes that many governments are failing to prepare for the future and, as a result, society is increasingly turning to companies, both public and private, to serve a social purpose.
‘In the current environment’, writes Fink, ‘… a company’s ability to manage environmental, social, and governance matters demonstrates the leadership and good governance that is so essential to sustainable growth, which is why we are increasingly integrating these issues into our investment process.’
Not surprisingly, when the likes of BlackRock makes a public statement of this nature, the financial markets sit up and take notice. As the largest asset management company in the world, managing assets of USD 6.3 trillion, it wields considerable influence.
But BlackRock is not alone in taking this stance. While Donald Trump stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the G7 Summit in Quebec last month, it overshadowed a much more significant event in London; namely the launch of the 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate that urges all governments, with the utmost urgency, to implement the actions that are needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
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