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Here’s my book review of The Big Pivot on Sustainable Brands.

If you’ve ever thought of dropping a book on your boss’s desk, in the hopes of sparking a Ray Anderson-type conversion, here’s a tip. Don’t use the new IPCC report: It’s gloomy, terrifying and a muddle.

Try this instead: Andrew Winston’s business transformation book for the “new normal” of climate change-fueled disruption. It’s called The Big Pivot.

The strategist and Green to Gold author has written a practical, working handbook for teams, organizations and corporations to “recreate their operations to succeed within the scientific reality of a hotter, wilder, more radically open world.”

In the book, which launches April 9 (join us for the launch! See details below), Winston deftly manages a tricky balancing act: talking about humanity’s impending catastrophes while maintaining a rational, business-minded focus on solutions. I’m glad to say that he pulls it off.

And glad for the rest of us, too, because we need a Big Pivot. That’s what Winston calls the kind of rapid and radical business transformation needed to get from today’s normal of insufficient action to new low/no-carbon, climate-resilient practices and strategies.

To start, Winston briskly lays out the science: Failure is what awaits us if businesses don’t prepare for climate-change-fueled weather disasters, resource scarcities and a radically transparent global marketplace.

For sure, Winston is swinging for the fences by calling for “dramatic improvements in operational efficiency and cuts in material and energy use, waste and carbon emissions.” But only because climate science — not the boardroom — demands it.

Then onto examples: Winston knows The Big Pivot is possible because he’s seen and helped companies do it. He shares stories to show that change can come from decisive leadership rather just than the stick of regulation or crisis. These up-to-date case studies are perfect, sharable examples of what leading companies are doing today.

And finally, he offers 10 strategies for how your company can make big, bold moves for equally big returns on business stability and profitability.

Each strategy is stated as an action, such as “Fight short-termism” and “Set big, science-based goals.” And for each strategy, there’s a “How to Execute” section.

For example, one of the simplest (but hardest) things companies can do is to throw out their goal-setting processes that rely on internal or industry benchmarks. Instead, Winston says we have to peg our goals to meeting the true size of the planetary problem, with suggestions for doing that.

Overall, I appreciate Winston’s refreshingly blunt perspective on two points, both of which can mire sustainability work in problems rather than solutions.

The first is that climate change — as a human-caused, dangerous scientific reality — is not up for discussion. Readers who are grappling with climate denialism or its poisonous cousin, climate fatalism, in their workplaces will find Winston a good model for not engaging and getting on with things.

The second is to dismiss the stall tactic he calls “the increasingly absurd question [of], ‘What’s the business case?’” For readers who are genuinely uninformed about why the world’s businesses need to do things differently, the book’s appendix offers a crash course. Readers can also consult Winston’s earlier book, Green to Gold.

I find his use of the pivot metaphor to be really smart. For one, readers who aren’t comfortable with high-stakes sustainability goals might find themselves on more familiar ground by thinking about entrepreneurial pivots. Successful Start-Up 101 is all about trying one thing, then shifting deliberately to another, to find the right customers and positioning. Giving The Big Pivot an entrepreneurial cast, deliberate or not, may help draw in hesitant readers.

What Winston doesn’t talk much about, by necessity of brevity, are the specific people at leading companies who are making Big Pivot changes towards science-based goal-setting, heretical innovation and radical cooperation.

And that’s a shame, because they’re the real story of The Big Pivot — not companies or strategies or tools to get to zero.

I think that The Big Pivot starts with each of us thinking of ourselves this way. And more importantly, by thinking of our colleagues, partners, competitors and elected officials as capable people who are also up for the challenging of creating a better future.

I’m inspired by Winston’s call for businesses to buck the short-term safety of a quarterly profits-obsessed status quo. It’s time to pivot to a focus on long-term, science-based realities. With a certain climate-challenged future ahead of us, The Big Pivot gives us a realist’s path to making sure it’s a prosperous one, too.

 

What would you do if your doctor was 95% sure you had a serious illness?

How about if a whole room of doctors said it?

You’d take care of it.

Via the European Commission:

What would you do if your doctor was 95% sure you had a serious illness?

”The issue is not whether to believe in climate change or not.

The issue is whether to follow science or not.

The day when all scientists with 100% certainty warn you against climate change, it will be too late.

If your doctor was 95% sure you had a serious disease, you would immediately start looking for the cure. Why should we take bigger risks when it’s the health of our planet at stake?

The new IPCC report says that climate change is occurring and that is at least 95% certainty that human activities are the principal cause.

OK, got it.

Let’s dig into that 95% number. Seems like there’s some wiggle room there.

But not really. When a scientist says this, he or she is being as precise as possible.

Via AP:

What 95% certainty of warming means to scientists

But in science, 95 percent certainty is often considered the gold standard for certainty.

Let’s put it into some context. Say, the sun.

 “Will the sun come up in the morning?” Scientists know the answer is yes, but they can’t really say so with 100 percent certainty because there are so many factors out there that are not quite understood or under control.

And why is this OK? Because we don’t demand absolute proof on other things before taking steps to mitigate risk. Like car insurance.

George Gray, director of the Center for Risk Science and Public Health at George Washington University, said that demanding absolute proof on things such as climate doesn’t make sense.

“There’s a group of people who seem to think that when scientists say they are uncertain, we shouldn’t do anything,” said Gray, who was chief scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the George W. Bush administration. “That’s crazy. We’re uncertain and we buy insurance.”

Give it to me in a more-and-less:

The Associated Press asked scientists who specialize in climate, physics, epidemiology, public health, statistics and risk just what in science is more certain than human-caused climate change, what is about the same, and what is less.

Gravity?

They said gravity is a good example of something more certain than climate change. Climate change “is not as sure as if you drop a stone it will hit the Earth,” Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. “It’s not certain, but it’s close.”

The age of the universe?

Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss said the 95 percent quoted for climate change is equivalent to the current certainty among physicists that the universe is 13.8 billion years old.

That cigarettes are bad for you?

The president of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, and more than a dozen other scientists contacted by the AP said the 95 percent certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades’ worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly.

The 95% is solid. Continuing to nitpick is just wasting time.

 

This happened.

http://www.ipcc.ch/

With all the flurry about it, there’s really only 10 words you need to know.

Via Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz  of the Yale Climate Project:

It’s real.

It’s us.

It’s bad.

Scientists agree.

There’s hope.

Let’s get on with it already.