Be brave in your discomfort

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Be brave in your discomfort

Let’s not shy away from contrary perspectives in sustainability discussions.

Conversations about sustainability are often siloed. The Springtij Forum, annually held on the island of Terschelling in the Netherlands, brings together different perspectives to discuss multiple issues. Deloitte joined Springtij as a partner, because we believe in this mission to connect and want to contribute by actively participating in this crucial discussion.

Author : Julian Lo

My personal experience

As a member of Deloitte’s Sustainable Finance team, I had the opportunity to attend the 2021 Springtij Forum. Deloitte aims to help organisations accelerate their sustainable transition. Springtij provides a platform to engage with different parties and has helped me better understand what their challenges are. Besides that, the event gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy the nature, since almost all activities were either outside in the forest or at the beach. During the discussions, cases and talks, several topics were commonly mentioned, which will be shortly discussed below.

Connection – like a Celtic knot

Everything is connected! At Springtij, I learned about the Celtic knot – a knot with a complete loop symbolizing interconnectedness – as a powerful metaphor for sustainability. Sustainability covers many topics, and solving our challenges requires different expertise. We need to cooperate more effectively by sharing our knowledge. The world needs the ideas of all people, all companies and all other organisations to achieve our collective goals.

Unheard voices

The 2021 Springtij theme was: “There is a voice that doesn’t use words – listen!”
We often forget there is more than meets the eye. We have underestimated climate change for a long time simply because we could not see its effects. At Springtij, attention was paid to things that are not always visible. Take for instance the climate debate, where too many voices are still unheard. We don’t yet hear enough from people whose lives have already been drastically affected by climate change. We hardly hear anything from the Ghanese farmers who are dealing with extreme droughts. We hardly hear anything from the country Tuvalu, which will likely be inhabitable when the sea level rises another 20-40 cm. We hardly spend enough attention to these issues, because they feel relatively far away. At Springtij I was reminded that it is important to act now before it’s too late – and that the best place to start is to listen!

Inclusive debate

Conferences like Springtij bring together different perspectives, which is why I find them so fascinating. Our sustainability challenges require cooperation; they cannot be solved from our own safe silos. At Springtij, participants from politics, governments, businesses, knowledge institutes and civil society come together to talk. Springtij is a safe space where also the more controversial topics can be discussed. One moment that stayed with me the most was around the role of fossil fuel companies in the transition towards a sustainable economy. This turned out to be an emotive subject. What I found fascinating is that strong opinions on either side of this argument were discussed in the open.

To start organisational change, the current view on things needs to be challenged and the resistance needs to be reduced by encouraging change.
Personally, I learned a lot by engaging with the fossil fuel companies. I found this inclusive approach very enriching. It gives the opportunity to share ideas and challenge our current views, which showed me that we urgently need to change our ways of living and this change begins with understanding what we need to change. As Kurt Lewin – pioneer in the field of organisational change – once said: “If you want truly to understand something, try to change it”.

Inspiration in my daily work

I work in the Finance and Performance team within Deloitte Consulting, where I support our clients to translate ambitions into concrete KPIs and enhance reporting quality. More and more clients I work with are dealing with non-financial information and non-financial KPIs. During Springtij, I had the chance to engage with so many different companies, which helped me understand the different challenges they encountered in their transition to be sustainable. The majority of the conversations concluded that we must remain committed to our main goal, a sustainable future, but flexible in our approach – taking on step at a time.

Future participation at Springtij

As partner of Springtij, we aim to increase the number of our people, and in particular Young Deloitters, to participate in this important topic. In conversations with our clients, we strive not to shy away from discussing the more challenging aspects of sustainability. On that note, I would like to leave you with an advice from Dutch rapper Typhoon, who spoke at Springtij: “Let’s be brave in our discomforts, because only then we are capable of many great things.”

Do you want to learn more about our partnership with Springtij and the upcoming Springtij Forum (22-23 September 2022) where people come together who make a difference in the sustainable transition, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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