The proportion of B2B companies that recognize that purpose is important for growth, but are still working on how to implement their purpose to influence business, environmental and social outcomes (Source: Carol Cone 2020). In addition, the study conducted by the purpose consultancy reveals that only 24% said that purpose is embedded in their business to the point of influencing innovation, operations, and their engagement with society. Sustainability remains an unresolved issue for most companies.

It took humans 496 million years to develop an early version of the neocortex, which made hominids the first living beings that could process complex thoughts, reason, make decisions, and create long-term plans. However, something has happened in the modern era that has broken with the natural course of our evolutionary process. Human beings have demonstrated over the past centuries, time and time again, that they prefer to nurture their hunger for short-term satisfaction, profit, and success. In most cases, this is done by mortgaging the future, and to the detriment of longer-term goals.

Over time, short-termism has transformed us into myopic societies that cannot see beyond the end of their noses. Or worse, we have become societies that can foresee what is coming but do not have the vision to do anything about it. Having sight without having the vision makes us rather less intelligent beings than we consider ourselves to be.

The modern world moves at a very fast pace and the short term has become shorter and shorter. Craving immediate results is a characteristic of our generation, particularly of those born from the ‘80s onwards. The result of this haste is a time bomb whose ticking frequency is accelerating exponentially.

A future, with a future

We let this attitude run our personal lives, affect our workplaces, and even shape our leisure activities. The dopamine generated by these small successes -instant rewards and short-term results- is addictive and is as hard for us to reject as the person who cannot give up smoking or gambling.

In fact, the decisions we are making today as a human species are leading us to a future without a future. It seems as if we are all immersed in a game, playing inside a big casino. Meanwhile, on the outside, the city is on fire. The roulette with 37 slots -which initially seemed fun and made us win money- has become a Russian roulette. We just haven’t realized it because the short term clouds the long term.

Throughout history, humanity has faced great challenges; nevertheless, we have managed to overcome them. In each period of time, an individual or a group of people had the vision and the guts to tackle these challenges by raising their voices and altering the status quo.

In this era, Elon Musk stands out. What is interesting about him is his multiple endeavors: it was not enough for him to create an electric car company that totally disrupted the market or a company that seeks to turn us into an interplanetary species (among other companies). Now, he is launching a prize of 100,000,000 dollars (eight zeros, none to spare) together with the XPRIZE Foundation. His aim is to reward the team -Musk is clear that human beings are driven by the short-termism of money- that develops a technology to extract enough carbon dioxide from the air to pull the Earth out of its disastrous warming trajectory.

Responsible organizations

This month’s Time magazine cover features the ten years ahead of us to meet (or not) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are in the decade of action. This titanic responsibility is not just one man’s, it is everyone’s, every person’s, and every organization’s on this planet.

It is not about being more conscious. It is about changing habits, practices, and behaviors that are so deeply rooted, and that we have embraced for decades – we only need to take a look at the evolution of the carbon dioxide bond market. It is a matter of organizations complying with the responsibility they have been avoiding for decades, trying to make up for it through the creation of social responsibility departments. The imperative in this decade of action is to transform the way our organizations operate, aligning them with the future of the planet and people, compromising as little as possible the resources of future generations.

To do so, organizations must understand their role in society and the impact they have on it. In this way, they will transform their culture towards sustainability and impact with a clear vision, not a short-sighted one. The time to act is today. There is no planet B.


This article was originally published in Ethic Magazine and translated from it. Read the original.

Photography credit – Cover: Ethic Magazine