#InsideValue is my personal attempt to discover what the values that we need to bring to the future might be and what we are ready to dismiss. I start from the point that we live in a world full of dichotomies and contradictory messages that just create more confusion and don’t allow us to prosper as a society. The objective of this blog post is to reflect on how this challenge has progressed over the last 10 months.
It is hard to define the starting point, but it probably all started after this image:
This image from September 2015 shows a representation of how I perceived my own sustainability challenge. It might look complicated but it is very simple: I basically find a lot of interconnections and bottlenecks from the ‘I’ and the ‘We’. However, I clearly depict an arrow towards the ‘We’, trying to explain that solutions are likely to go more in that direction.
I cannot claim I have done something specifically, but a positive thing is that I realize that every time I write a post, I am closer to the point I want to get to. What is my final aim? I am not so sure what the result will be. This is personally a free-discovery exercise not linked to traditional academia. And certainly, it is much more the reading and inspiration than the actual writing.
Some optimism is possible. Let’s dream a bit.
An important component of this challenge, which has been retrofitted by experiences and new knowledge, can be phrased on how a more ‘ethical’ world can be achieved, where all individuals take ownership of their actions and collaborate to work towards common goals. But I have to be careful; it would be irresponsible from my side to make idealistic statements that will be easily counter argued with pessimistic and understandable views such as: What can we do? This is life.
Visible changes can take years or decades, but that doesn’t deny that change is happening every single day. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible to explain how I am freely writing my ideas, when several decades ago this would have been seen as a libertarian idea of mine—instead of being quiet and subservient. But the point is clear, change did occur and every action and opinion mattered. It is completely normal to feel frustration because sustainability is taking some time, but every day we take meaningful steps towards the future we want.
As I wrote in my second blog post ‘Individuals are the core of sustainability’; individuals have a huge power in the world in which we currently live. However, we usually think that if we are not collectively clustered this power is unreal, which in practical terms can be very true. Another belief is that we have to have the charisma of individuals such as Gandhi or Mandela to make real changes. These are simple examples that serve as good references, but they do not necessarily mean it is the ultimate course of action.
The role of ethics vs morality within sustainability
My undergraduate degree is in International Relations, and my take away from those four years is that the roles of ethics and human beings need to be studied in depth so that it should not be assumed these occupy a marginal role only because they are prescriptive or subjective. This definitely shapes my thinking in the image above.
In my view, it is important to distinguish between morals and ethics in a sustainability context. Morality refers more to our choices and feelings but ethics are the inner boundaries that prevent us from doing something wrong, and here the meaning of wrong depends on many internal and external factors. A moral assertion would be it feels right, whereas an ethical assertion would be it is right.
I strongly believe that not differentiating between morality and ethics is against a bigger uptake of sustainability. We can be passionate about a cause and for sure we will probably find people who will join our cause because it feels right; but if we want things to become mainstream we need to shift the distorted current perception of ‘common sense’ so that people actually do what is right. The real enemy is the simplicity of what ‘is right’ in the world we live in that currently responds to these three questions in most of our decision making: i) What are the immediate rewards? ii) What is strictly forbidden? And iii) What are the others doing?
We all have different passions and interests, and we cannot pretend people love what we love. Some people love nature, others animals, others more abstract concepts such as equality or freedom, and all of these concepts have a great link to sustainability, but they are subjective and although they move our moral fibres we cannot use the ‘it feels right’ argument to convince others to care and act.
More ethical institutions?
I have heard several times that institutions cannot be ethical if they are not composed of ethical individuals. This is true, but this is not the end of the assertion. The important part here is that the organization’s culture and mind-sets can be retrofitted by individuals so that it can ‘show’ ethical practices.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability have raised the bar in terms of shaping the mind-sets of individuals and organizations. For some, it is basically that competition and standards are getting higher so organizations have to perform much better in comparison with 20 years ago. However, I clearly see that something is changing and that we are just starting at the beginning of an ethical transformation where all values are being reshaped into more demands to be able to ensure a future for upcoming generations. These new concepts are presenting evidence that this bar or ethical boundary will continue rising.
How my challenge is evolving … one year to go
At least after 10 months I am able to articulate my internal challenge. At this point, many open questions remain towards making a ‘more ethical world’ where people do ‘what it is right’ based on stronger inner values that take us to the future. The fact that solutions start from individual ethics doesn’t mean that pressures need to come only from individuals. On the contrary, individuals and institutions need to work together and reshape the way they are working … Sustainability is right and the world is witnessing how the ethical transformation has started.
TO BE CONTINUED …