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20th World Congress on

Environment Management and Climate Change 2018


Transformational Leadership for Promoting Climate Resilient Economic Growth
7th July 2018, at Hotel Le Méridien, New Delhi

Conclusions and Recommendations

Prof Colin Coulson-Thomas*

Around the world people strive for more output, growth and development. From an objective
perspective, how much more of these can our planet and the natural world take before biting back
with a vengeance?

Should it be onwards and upwards, or are we working towards our own downfall? Are we storing
up problems that might overwhelm future generations? Are we putting sticking plasters on the
wounds we are causing, rather than letting in fresh air and fresh thinking?

Are some directors and boards the problem rather than part of the solution? Are incremental
improvements merely reducing the environmental damage being done? Might we need to accept
lower growth rates in order to achieve a more sustainable, simpler and healthier lifestyle?

How would you like to be remembered? Will you be in a rogues gallery of those who burned up
natural capital as if there were no tomorrow? Will you be lauded by future generations for realising
that “less” and “different” needs to become the new “more”?

Will you be celebrated for scaling back and inspiring innovation? Do you have the courage to
reinvent and lead your companies in a new direction? Will you champion the adoption of new and
more sustainable business models and lifestyles?

Directors need to be self-aware. Do you view the sharing economy as a threat to future output
growth? Alternatively, do you see it as an arena of opportunity in which with the right business
model you could build a new global business that is more valuable than your current one?

The biggest impact of some companies could be their contribution to global warming. Are you re-
visiting classic and fundamental questions? For example, what business should you be in? Should
we transform or start afresh? What is your purpose? Should it be to support social transformation?

Directors should ask the challenging questions that vested interests choose to ignore. They should
look beyond rhetoric at implications and realities. They should prepare for the consequences of
climate change, including natural disasters.

Directors should probe. Electric cars may sound great, but where will all the lithium for the batteries
come from? What about the emissions from the power stations that generate the electricity? What
about disposal of the batteries?

Challenge assumptions and question expectations. How resilient would our activities, companies,
institutions and societies be in the face of a sudden and potentially disruptive event such as
magnetic reversal?
Effective directors do not take anything for granted. They are open to possibilities and they look
beyond ideas. One cannot copyright an idea, only a particular and tangible expression of it.

Entrepreneurs look for opportunities that are affordable and capable of implementation. Are you
doing enough to inspire and encourage entrepreneurship and to work with entrepreneurs? There are
huge opportunities to help people change their lifestyles?

We have been warned. To keep the ecosystem in balance, according to the Vedas one species should
not encroach upon another. The importance of air and water is acknowledged, and water pollution is
linked to the spread of disease. The role of vegetation in reducing pollution and the use of trees to
prevent erosion are alluded to.

Indian ancient wisdom is holistic. In regard to our relationship with the environment and natural
world, it exudes the breadth of perspective and systems thinking that competent directors and
effective boards should have.

Is your company’s board responding to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals? Is it supporting
the implementation of Paris Agreement commitments? Many boards may need to give more attention to
relevant Sustainable Development Goals, especially those that can be influenced.

Those who read the road ahead tell us we are running out of road. The cost, disruption and pain of
delaying the business, economic and social transformation we need are likely to rise exponentially.
Many boards need to be faster and more flexible in responding to challenges and opportunities.

Directors also need to think “circular economy” and consider the life cycle impacts of corporate
offerings. Sustainability discussions need to embrace supply chains. More thought should be given
to how technology can address pollution and climate change issues.

Companies should play their part in engaging with young people and children in schools to make
them aware of environment and climate change issues and lifestyle choices to be made.

India is becoming more involved in international discussions and is influencing them. Collaboration and
cross border partnerships should be encouraged.

Reinvention and changes of direction are required. Outsiders are often the ones who bring about radical
change and introduce new business models. Engage with entrepreneurs and those willing to shake things up.
India should continue to open up its economy and be open to ideas.

Do you need an away day to consider issues relating to the environment and climate change?
Should you be engaging more with stakeholders to seek their views?

Could and should reinvention, regeneration and transformation begin in the boardroom? While you
have a directorial role it is never too late to exert transformational leadership. Do it now so that in
future you will have few regrets. Do it while you can exert influence and have a beneficial impact.

I have come to know many members of this Institute of Directors and those who attend its events.
Our vision, mission and objectives include references to spearheading the change to a more sustainable
world; and to social, environmental and economic transformation.

I respect you enough to believe that you will be lauded for your future achievements, just as we
have celebrated your past and current successes. I am confident you will provide the leadership we
need to be pioneers of a new age and become the heroes of future generations.
*Author

Prof. (Dr) Colin Coulson-Thomas, President of the Institute of Management Services, has helped directors in over 40
countries to improve director, board and corporate performance. In addition to directorships he leads the International
Governance Initiative of the Order of St Lazarus, is Director-General, IOD India, UK and Europe, chair of United
Learning's Risk and Audit Committee, Chancellor and a Professorial Fellow at the School for the Creative Arts,
Honorary Professor at the Aston India Foundation for Applied Research, a Distinguished Professor at the Sri Sharada
Institute of Indian Management-Research, Visiting Professor of Direction and Leadership at Lincoln International
Business School, and a member of the advisory boards of Bridges of Sports and the Arvind Foundation, and ACCA's
Governance, Risk and Performance Global Forum.

An experienced chairman of award winning companies and vision holder of successful transformation programmes,
Colin is the author of over 60 books and reports. He has held public appointments at local, regional and national level
and professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, India and China. He was
educated at the London School of Economics, London Business School, UNISA and the Universities of Aston, Chicago
and Southern California. He is a fellow of seven chartered bodies and obtained first place prizes in the final exams of
three professions. Details of his most recent books and reports can be found on: http://www.policypublications.com/