Pre-crisis, Critical Event(s) / In Crisis! / Prevention, Mitigation – Where Will the World Act in the Context of Climate Change?

March 29  2021

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

At certain times, an unknown unknown may strike, rapidly triggering a serious crisis situation.  Think of a tsunami or earthquake.

Many other times the crisis situation occurs and there are at least a dozen, maybe even dozens of precursor events or activities that over time / if neglected by leadership set up the going over the cliff situation.

The G&A Institute team members have collectively helped to manage literally hundreds of critical events or crisis situations over the years for corporate, fiduciary, social sector and other clients.

Alas, we have seen many critical issues and/or events spin into dramatic crisis situations over time — but none with the scale of the dangers posed to humanity and planet by climate change.  Ignoring this is not an option for humankind.

The crisis situations that can be pretty accurately projected or forecast are often years in the buildup.

Leaders may ignore unpleasant situations until things do spin out of control.  There is the powerful human capacity for denial – this can’t be happening / this won’t happen / there are slim chances that “this” will go wrong, and we will lose control of things.

Until things do go terribly wrong.

Think of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks – 20 years ago this year.

What could have been to prevent these? Read the many pages of the report on the attacks published by the US government — you will see page-after-page of factors that illustrate the points made here.

Or, the damages of Hurricane Katrina.  Things were going well in New Orleans – until they were not.

There is the unbelievable, tragic opioid epidemic in the USA. Was anyone tuned in to the unbelievable flow of opiods in the State of West Virginia and other locales?  Many many doses per resident – who was consuming them and why?

Right now – there is the still-out-of-control, worldwide Covid pandemic. There will be abundant case histories published on this in the years to come.

Think about the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill crisis in vulnerable Alaskan waters 30 plus years back — and what could have been addressed in preventative measures. (We did numerous corporate management workshops on this event, walking through two dozen clearly-visible precursor events.  One factor impacted another than another. And another.

Think about what could have been addressed up front to address these situations and other classic crisis situations well ahead of time to prevent or limit the human and physical costs.  The good news?

We have time today to address the unbelievable potential harm to human and widespread physical damages that we will see in the worst cases in global climate changes.

It takes recognition of these serious risks and dangers, the political will to act, widening public support of the leaders’ actions, and considerable financial investment.  So – ask yourself – are we on target with limiting of damages, mitigation for the worse of possible outcomes, and most important, in taking prevention strategies and actions?

Each of us must answer the question and then take action.  The encouraging news is that collective action is now clearly building in volume and momentum – that’s the focus of some of the Top Stories we selected for you in the current newsletter.  There are valuable perspectives shared in these stories.

The world stands at critical point, said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed to European Parliament Vice President Heidi Hautalan, referencing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The United Nations is working to strengthen its partnership with the EU to deliver on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs – with 169 targets for action). “The work is more urgent than ever” was the message.  This is the decade for multilateral engagement and action – we are but nine years away from a tipping point on climate disasters.

Many companies in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and other regions have publicly declared their support of the SDGs – but now how are they doing on the follow up “action steps” – especially concrete strategies and actions to implement their statements (walking-the-talk on SDGs)?

The Visual Capitalist provides answers with a neat infographic from MSCI; the powerhouse ESG ratings & rankings organization sets out the SDG alignment of 8550 companies worldwide.

Are they “strongly aligned” or “aligned” or “misaligned” or “strongly misaligned”?  Looking at this important research effort by MSCI, we learn that 598 companies are “strongly misaligned” on Responsible Consumption and Production” (Goal 12) – the highest of all goals.

Could we as individual consumers and/or investors and/or employees of these firms help to change things in time?  (Back to the proposition — Think about what could have been addressed up front to address these situations and other classic crisis situations well ahead of time to prevent or limit the human and physical costs.)

Are we willing to make tough decisions about these enterprises – about the climate crisis overall?

And this from the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock:  The firm will push companies to step up their efforts to protect the environment from deforestation, biodiversity loss and pollution of the oceans and freshwater resources.  T

his from guidelines recently published by the firm, including the readiness to vote against directors if companies have not effectively managed or disclosed risks related to the depletion of natural capital – the globe’s natural resources.

President Joe Biden, in office now for just over two months, has a full plate of crisis, pre-crisis and post-crisis situations to deal with.

Intervention is key, of course, President Biden and VP Kamala Harris have set out the “Climate Crisis Agenda” for our consideration.  One of the big challenges?  Our oceans – and the incoming head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be on point for this part of the agenda.

NPR Radio had interesting perspectives to share on the warming of the oceans and what can be done to prevent further damage.

We bring you the details of all the above in our selections of Top Stories for this week’s newsletter.  Of course, there is action being taken.  Is it enough to prevent global disasters as the climate changes?

Your answers and actions (as well as “ours”) can help to determine the answers!

TOP STORIES for you…

A Special Message From the G&A Institute Team – To Our Valued Colleagues

From all of us on the G&A Institute team, our greetings to you wherever you are working today.  From conversations, we know many of you are sheltered in place, and preparing for this period of uncertainty and anxiety. 

We hope this communication finds you safe and well today, and able to continue to be engaged and connected.

We wish for the same for your family and colleagues (your business family). These are the times of many unknowns and adjustments as we quickly move away from our usual daily “normal” to find the way forward through the crisis and on to post-emergency recovery.

This is a time of great uncertainty as society “closes down” in terms of the many things we do every day and take for granted.  We work at home today, not the office.  We have food delivered and don’t go to stores or restaurants. We don’t take public transportation to work or drive the car to the facility parking lot.  Our colleagues are now voices on the phone, not the co-worker in the room next door in the office.

In summer 2019, The Business Roundtable (the association of leading CEOs in the U.S.) re-defined its “Purpose of a Corporation” statement to pledge to promote an economy that serves all Americans. Jamie Dimon, Chair/CEO of JPMorgan Chase, was then the chair.  His comments in 2019 apply many times over in March 2020:

“The American dream is alive but fraying.
Major employers are investing in their workers and communities
because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term.
These modernized principles [of the BRT] reflect the business community’s
unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy
that serves all Americans.” 

Today, the almost 200 CEOs of major companies signing on to the updated principles are challenged to keep the promise. Millions of us are counting on the corporate sector to help us through the crisis, many now partnering with federal, state and local communities to address the challenges.

From our team’s crisis management work over many years, we know that the “unknown” is the important fear factor – for many people, what “if” quickly comes to mind.  We can talk instead about “what is”, what is the known and what we can do about it, even in some small way to help reassure.  And, we can give other people something to do.

Staying at home – that is doing something positive to do on the personal level.  What we can do in and from the home – that is our contribution to addressing the emergency affecting all of society.

Today, we are using this communication with you to share this from our team:

We are writing to say that we are here for you, continuing our communications with you and sharing information, as best we can, given the circumstances.  We are able to report that all of our team members are doing OK and connected and working remotely to keep things on track.  (Of course, like some of you with young children at home, it’s an interesting juggling act!)

As some of you may know, our G&A team members have been working together for several decades (depending on when the team member joined).  Our prior firm, where many of the founding members were a dedicated team, was a premier crisis management consultancy, serving the Fortune 500(R) companies. 

Our experience includes having all hands on deck during the September 11th attacks in 2001 to support our clients.  And, helping clients with strategies and support and communication in the aftermath and recovery period as the nation got back to business.

We applied that crisis & issue management, strategic communication legacy, experience and knowledge base in the emerging field of corporate ESG / sustainability / citizenship and sustainable investing when we founded the company in 2006-07.

We will continue to communicate with you via our usual channels to help to keep you informed and updated.  We want to continue “the normal” as much as we can and our weekly newsletter will be part of that effort.

The global emergency presents risk to us, yes, but also opportunity for all of us individually and collectively, as teams working together, to be strengthened.  Our organization’s reputation and brand to be enhanced, and the demonstration of “sustainability” in the traditional use of the term  – to be viable, resilient and here for the long-term for all stakeholders. 

The Wei Ji, the ancient Chinese symbol for risk and opportunity, presents the two sides of today’s crisis environment. On the opportunity side of the risk equation, we think that excellence in corporate citizenship will be on full display these days, visible to all of our stakeholders.

What the company does, its mission stated clearly, the actions taken, the protection of stakeholders, the protection of brand and products, the caring for Human Capital, the actions that benefit society…all of this will demonstrate the character, purpose, and culture of the corporate entity.

The old saying today is something to consider — now is the time for all good companies to come to the aid of their countrymen.

The ESG / sustainability / responsibility work underway by you and your organization during these challenging times is a strong foundation of all of this. It’s what sustainability leadership and excellence is corporate citizenship is all about – continue on with the good work!  Continue on the path is our advice today.

Let us know if we can help in any way.  We are all in this together – and we will enter the post-emergency period together, to be stronger than ever.

Do keep safe and secure and healthy. We’ll keep communicating with you. Keeping as much as we can “normal” in the new normal is important.

The team at Governance & Accountability Institute.