Paris Treaty: Are Corporations up to the Challenges?

By Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

Last month, in anticipation of the COP21 meetings, my blogging partner, Katrin Muff, wrote about hope for a miracle in Paris. Her desire was for global leaders to come together to create a positive force in the world to address climate change. Now that the meetings have concluded, I believe most of us would agree that her hope was realized.  The outcome of the COP21 was an ambitious multi-country agreement that moves us forward in addressing the urgent issue of climate change.  However, as Jeff Nye states in the title of his recent SustainAbility blog,  We’ve come a Long Way from Rio but the Real Journey Starts Now.  He argues that this treaty merely “fires the starting gun on a quest to deliver a carbon neutral economy within the lifetimes of our grandchildren.” Continue reading

Why all of us should care about corporate culture

by Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

On September 18, 2015 the Volkswagen Group received a notice of violation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States for intentionally programming their diesel engines to activate emissions controls only during laboratory testing.  According to the New York Times, this “diesel deception” could cause hundreds of deaths in the USA alone, due to the tons of pollutants released into the atmosphere.  And an October 28th headline in  the  New York Times proclaimed that “Volkswagen, hit by Emissions Scandal, Posts its First Loss in Years.” Continue reading

What if we considered border and boundaries issues as dilemmas and tensions?

by Dr. Katrin Muff

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

There is something hard and cold about borders and boundaries. Something exclusive, cutting-off and leaving out, separating the “us” and “them”. What if that was a way of operating that was simply outdated? Let us look at an alternative operating mode: one that builds on inclusion and cooperation and expresses itself through dilemmas and tensions, which need to be figured out, one step a time.

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Boundaries and Borders: Do They Enrich or Imprison Us?

by Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

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We live in a world of boundaries – a term that can be defined in many ways:

  • A dividing line.
  • A point or limit that indicates where two things become different.
  • Frontiers inviting exploration and development.

Some boundaries appear on maps as divisions between countries.   Others are physical, such as fences or walls.  In recent years technology has removed many of the boundaries that separated us in the past.  However, internal or psychological boundaries seem to have become more entrenched now than ever before.  And since boundaries of any type can enrich or imprison us, the question I am exploring this month is this:  How can we ensure that the boundaries which frame us are generative rather than limiting?

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Challenges in Multi-Stakeholder Debates

by Dr. Katrin Muff

Note: this article is part of The Transatlantic Debate Blog series, which forms a conversation between Dr. Katrin Muff and Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. Read the previous post here.

We have focused our discussion over the past few months to argue for, and establish, the need for a common space where burning societal issues can be resolved among concerned stakeholders. We looked at positive and negative implications, dangers and opportunities.

The back and forth between Kathy Miller who lives in North America, and me in Europe has stopped for a couple of months. This is unusual and a first in our 18 months continued conversation on this blog. It got stuck on my end. I have not been able to write. A couple of things occurred in parallel: first of all, I was absorbed in a complex multi-stakeholder process here at BSL that broadly discussed a potential new governance structure for the school. Secondly, Europe has been paralyzed by the Greek economic situation and the ongoing negotiations with Brussels that read and felt like a thriller, an ongoing thriller. Somehow, I lost my voice in all of this. This blog is an effort to regain my voice and to attempt a hesitant path on uncharted territory (German: “Neuland” or “new land”). I’ll do this looking at the Greek situation.

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Nobody’s Right if Everybody’s Wrong

by Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins

“Something is happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear ”
Lyrics from For What It’s Worth-Buffalo Springfield, 1966

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 Six Officers Charged in Freddie Gray Death[1]

 Public division about climate change rooted in conflicting socio-political identities [2]

MLGAs I was writing the blog this month, I found myself distracted by news headlines that seemed to beg for my attention.  I read the stories of riots in Baltimore over the death while in police custody of, a young black man, Freddie Gray.  Eyewitness accounts differed dramatically on the “facts” of what transpired.  And each witness seemed to have great confidence in the details as he or she described them.

Moreover, I ran across an article on climate change that stated, “U.S. believers and skeptics have distinct social identities, beliefs and emotional reactions that systematically predict their support for action to advance their respective positions.”[3]  The authors argued that communication and education are unlikely to resolve the divide since the opinions are rooted in emotion. They stated, “Interventions that increase angry opposition to action on climate change are especially problematic.”

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Occupying the Collective Space

by Dr. Katrin Muff

Different ways of occupying…

As we will consider in this month’s blog, there are different ways of occupying that middle ground between the personal space each of us feel responsible for, and societal best interests. The collective space called “we” can be used to uplift individuals to act together for a better common future, or it can be hijacked by individuals or special interest groups to occupy or “blockupy” the collective space pressing their issues – for better, or worse, as we shall see below, and not necessarily in the interest of the greater common good.

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Moving From “I” to “We”

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by Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins

For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.

John F. Kennedy 

Recap – January Blog

Last month Katrin discussed the “zero decade” – a term used by Naomi Klein to describe our dwindling opportunity to take action to keep human-created climate change in check.  Katrin conveyed how we might avoid an unmitigated global disaster.  She outlined three levels of global responsibility including the individual (I), the collective (we) and the societal (us).  She suggested focusing on how we might effectively occupy that middle space– the “we”.

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The “Zero Decade” and the Zero-Impact Feeling

NOTE: This post by Dr Katrin Muff is a continuation of ‘The Transatlantic Debate Blog, a series of articles published in 2014 forming a conversation between Katrin Muff and Kathy Miller Perkins on business sustainability. For more information and to read the posts, please click here.

Activists have come to call our current decade the “zero decade” – the decade in which we have the power to decide if we take action to keep human-made global warming within the relatively safe two degrees, or if we let the climate head off into spheres where the only certainty is that life will dramatically change for the generations after us. Is there anything we can do? Is there anything I can do?

I recently spent 40 hours on a train across India and took the time to read Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything book on climate change and what it will take for us to remain within the required two-degree temperature limit. Well, nothing short of getting rid of the capitalist system as we have come to know it! How? Nothing short of a revolution and global social unrest, she says. I don’t like social unrest – for many reasons – and I am sure I am not alone. The alternative? What if there is none?

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There is so much we do – why isn’t there a higher impact?

Dr Katrin Muff

Dr Katrin Muff asks why there is such a big gap between what we know and what we do

Welcome to The Transatlantic Blog Debate with Kathy Miller Perkins and Katrin Muff. Over the next year, Kathy and Katrin will be debating about the business of sustainability and the sustainability of business from both sides of the Atlantic, examining best practice examples and current issues through their dialogue. We encourage comments and contributions to the debate, so please get involved! We are starting with Business School Lausanne Dean Katrin Muff on how coherence is vital to helping us build a sustainable future:

Launching the transatlantic debate, I would like to address COHERENCE – and the lack thereof – and its importance in transforming small actions at various levels into the massive transformation required to prepare for a world and society in which 9 billion people will live well (WBCSD’s Vision 2050) together.

If I look at any of the three levels of analysis (individual, institutional, societal, as championed by the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative GRLI), it becomes blatantly obvious to what degree there is a lack of coherence between what we know, and what we do.
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