"The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world." Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
In times of crisis our collective senses are heightened to what a better society, industry or company could look like. Human tragedy can be a wake up call, revealing the conditions for reinvention.
This 52INSIGHTS explores the growing number of ‘Great Reset’ initiatives and conversations emerging in business and the marketing and communications industry, pointing the way forward and willing better ideas and practises (for people and planet) into being.
THE GREAT RESET - AN ECONOMIC NECESSITY
“The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems –from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties.” World Economic Forum
Covid-19 has created an opportunity that we have never had before, and may never again. What will shape the post-Covid-19 reality (in business and marketing)? Will we go back to business as usual? Will we manifest a green recovery that serves both people and planet? What are the things we actually want business to grow? These are just some of the questions embedded in the global ‘Great Reset’ narrative.
Early in June the World Economic Forum announced The Great Reset initiative - ‘to improve the state of the world.’ The initiative, an exciting development for sustainability, looks at rebalancing investment, harnessing science and technology, and advancing the transition to net zero - fundamental elements to building the future we need - to change our economy to combat the climate emergency. Ultimately, The Great Reset initiative has an ambitious set of ‘dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being’. The meeting of The World Economic Forum in Davos in 2021 will feature a series of virtual dialogues on The Great Reset, alongside its regular physical event. These will be inclusive and welcome young people to engage in this traditionally exclusive conference.
Why is climate top of the agenda of the economic recovery post-Covid-19? The climate conversation has slowly edged its way into the corporate world and gained increased traction over the years, but the pandemic has given us an insight into the scale of the coming ‘climate crunch.’
“We've seen economic destruction caused by the sudden arrival of Covid-19, yet climate change has the potential to bring about a financial meltdown on a scale which could dwarf anything that has come before. Some estimates put the value of assets which could be left stranded at $40tn (€35tn).” Mike Hayes, KPMG
Hayes attributes a shift in the position of the climate change agenda to the top of corporate agenda to ‘three very potent forces’ - investor sentiment, supply chain pressures and employee power. BlackRock - the world’s biggest asset management firm which has made landmark moves for climate (making environmental sustainability a core goal of investment decisions) - has begun to punish companies over climate inaction. It’s revealed that it took voting action (either by calling for executive accountability or backing new shareholder proposals which would lead to stricter environmental requirements) against 53 companies on climate grounds in the first half of 2020, including the likes of Chevron, ExxonMobil, Air Liquide, Daimler and Volvo. A further 191 companies have been put on ‘watch’ - facing voting if improvements are not made. At a political level, the EU is also going out of its way to re-engineer itself as a green economy. This indicates a green glimmer of action that young school strikers might be hopeful about.
“For years, our younger generation has warned us. For years they’ve marched in defiance of a broken system. 7million of them skipping school, and work, to march for climate action - inspired by the wisdom of a teenager who’s seen little of life but enough to know that there’s a lot gone wrong in our world. Now, the adults are awakening. Now, world leaders and business communities are waking up. The Great Reset offers some hope for a sustainable world. Now, in the midst of a pandemic- there’s no better time for change. No better time to take destiny into our own hands and plan for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world.” Jane McDaid, Founder, Thinkhouse
THE GREAT RESET - AN INDUSTRY MOVEMENT
“55% of consumers believe brands play a more important role than governments to create a better future.” Havas Meaningful Brands Study (2019)
As a systemic amplifier (upselling and shifting ideas, products, behaviours), marketing and advertising has the power to nudge our collective systems in a direction in line with this ‘Great Reset’ thinking/goal. Companies from across the Ireland and UK’s creative, marketing and communications industry came together to launch The Great Reset, an initiative (initiated by the Purpose Disruptors) that hopes to maintain and promote the positive behaviours and environmental shifts created during lockdown, where we had a trial run of sustainable living. Global emissions have decreased by 7% thanks to lockdown, which the UN states is the same annual reduction required to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. As the world starts to ‘reopen’ and return to a ‘new normal’, there is a small yet urgent window of opportunity not to let this progress slide.
A new UK poll conducted for The Great Reset through OnePulse shows that 77% think it is the creative industry’s responsibility to encourage people to behave more sustainably, as we have in lockdown. The Great Reset aims to harness this moment in time, and provide an opportunity to ‘reset’ and create work that meets the desire of 77% of the population and is in the best interests of both mankind and the future of our planet. In recent days we’ve seen the lens on the advertising and marketing industry with regard to ethics and sustainability manifest in the form of a campaign for an SUV advertising ban and criticism of British Army marketing. Elsewhere we saw the August issue of British Vogue themed around ‘reset’ - with imagery of nature on its front covers - signifying a mainstreaming of the general idea of ‘resetting’ together as individuals and communities outside of the world of work.
The Great Reset team argues that putting the planet first is the creative and communications industry’s most untapped business advantage. As the business world reimagines its carbon commitments on a greater scale than ever before (and as citizens continue to radically expand what it means to live sustainably), complexity and uncertainty remain fixed in the horizon…navigating is ‘chaos’ and change in our corporate systems requires creativity. As Amitav Ghosh puts it: "The climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination.”
“Disaster shocks us out of slumber but only skillful effort will keep us awake.” Rebecca Solnit
The business of business is changing. The economic world and creative world are crying out for ‘The Great Reset’ - a future that sees us working courageously and collectively to regenerate our ecosystems and create an equal society. This is your chance to seize the opportunity to direct the choices in your own life and networks with intent.
Now is the time to think about what history and future generations will say about this crisis. What role do you want to play? What is it that you could do to ensure this opportunity does not pass your organisation or brand by? What protective measures can you think of to help you resist returning to ‘business as usual’? From resetting how you work and how you decide on projects or briefs to how you measure your impact on society and the planet and how you define value (eg from shareholder to stakeholder to ‘system value’ where business serves society and where both are contained within - dependent to protect and regenerate), there are many areas you can explore and experiment in.
Want to discuss more? Let’s chat. As strategic creatives and committed environmental advocates, we at Thinkhouse see ourselves as critical partners championing smart thinking, experimentation and imagination through this recovery and reset.
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