Have you ever tried to change a habit?

Have you ever tried to change your spouse’s habits? Your child’s? Ten people in your company? Or 100? Or 100,000?

It’s hard. And yet it’s done. But you have to make the commitment, and do the work.

This is true at the macro level. One case in point: McKinsey & Company (the world’s top management consultancy) says that “sustainability is a mission-critical priority” and that it is committed to helping clients decarbonise. But France24 reports that McKinsey “is using its position as a key advisor to the UN’s COP28 climate talks to push the interests of its big oil and gas clients, undermining efforts to end the use of the fossil fuels driving global warming.” McKinsey’s draft for COP28 (they’re providing pro-bono advice to the UAE) “says $2.7 trillion a year in new investment will have to be sunk into oil and gas until mid-century, clashing head-on with the IEA net-zero blueprint.”

On the other hand, Stanford University engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson estimates that “the overall upfront cost to replace all energy in the 145 countries which emit 99.7 percent of world [anthropogenic] carbon dioxide, is about $62 trillion”—about the same amount McKinsey proposes for investment in oil and gas. “However, due to the $11 trillion annual energy cost savings, the payback time for the new system is less than six years.”  That’s roughly a  17.7% ROI.  Sounds like a good investment to me! And perhaps a violation of fiduciary duty not to make. (How are your investments doing?)

(Mark and I spoke Monday at the 2023 Solutions Summit, streaming from the US House of Representatives. You can read my opening remarks here.)

And what about the personal dimension? At our conversation at the Commonwealth Club a few years ago, Nora Bateson asked the audience for a show of hands: “How many in this room are not wearing a single item of exploitation, of people or resources?” Not a single hand went up; not hers, not mine, either. It raises the question, of course, of how we choose to live in relation to our concerns and commitments; all too often we cut ourselves slack and expect impeccability from others.

You can take this two ways, of course: cut others more slack…or be more impeccable! But what would that mean? What would that take? In your business…and in your life.

Yes, “it’s hard.”” And yet it’s done. People do change habits. Organizations do change practices. But you have to make the commitment, and do the work.

I think and talk about this often. With corporate clients. With coaching clients. With my own family. (Did you know that food waste might be your biggest personal carbon emission?)

And we’ll explore it next week at Living Between Worlds—our monthly online conversation about, well, living between worlds—with grace, dignity, and power. Register here to join us Wednesday November 15 at 12pm PST. I look forward to seeing you there!

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