Don't forget to show your privilege
Companies and people are making space for their annual fresh starts, but reaching "Quitter's Day" means we'll all lose
One of COVID's largest ripple effects was creating intersecting lines of division across demographics (i.e. masked vs unmasked, vaccinated vs #novaxx) in addition to widening already existing divides (i.e. working class vs shareholder class).
While news detailed how devastated countries and communities had become due to the lack of medical equipment, infrastructure, funds, quick government action, you name it, there was a cohort around the world that remained largely…intact. They were suddenly confronted with their own circumstances.
This cohort doesn't own yachts but can buy a $7 bag of Torres truffle chips without guilt.
They walk down the street with a high level of confidence they won't get harassed.
They’ve started planning their next vacation getaway.
They roll out of bed and work from home while debating whether or not to leave their jobs.
If you relate to most of the above, congratulations, you, like me, have ordinary privilege.
Does it leave a taste in your mouth? Or perhaps it sounds like an accusation? I invite you to get comfortable in this discomfort because ordinary is actually extraordinary in times like this.
And the acceptance of your privilege creates space in the well of angst we’ve been wading in for the last two years.
In this space we can ask more questions, be okay with nuance, notice differences and similarities with peers and shed our past selves to become better people as humans like to do every 365 days.
Without this space, donations likely wouldn’t have surged as much as 246% during COVID vs the year before and leaders wouldn’t be more empathetic to employees in the face of the Great Resignation. Thank you privilege.
Each year we look forward to the dreaded, yet highly anticipated New Year’s resolutions. We laugh and roll our eyes at this tradition, but not setting resolutions reflects our fears more than our hopes. The scary part isn’t making the goals, the problem is staying on track.
In 2021, businesses like H&M, Nike, LEGO to tech companies like Amazon and Google set grand carbon emissions goals with deadlines spanning from 2025 to 2050. They’ve also sporadically shared some ways they will reach carbon neutrality via jazzed up press releases (ex. H&M to use Maersk ECO Delivery).
They’ve done what author of best-seller Atomic Habits, James Clear, believes is the easy part. He paints goal setting as the following:
"Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal. Every candidate wants to get the job. And if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers. It wasn’t the goal of winning the Tour de France that propelled the British Cyclists to the top of the sport. Presumably, they had wanted to win the race every year before—just like every other professional team. The goal had always been there. It was only when they implemented a system of continuous small improvements that they achieved a different outcome."
A key factor in achieving goals is the system implemented because it frames our decision making. It's easy to be impressed by splashy sustainability goal headlines, but companies are run by people at the end of the day and we know the stats around resolution achievement aren’t pretty.
Strava, American fitness tracking app, calculated the day into the new year when people most likely give up on their fitness goals. It’s Jan 19 - a day sadly deemed "Quitter's Day".
So out of these companies with ambitious goals, who emerges a winner or loser? In other words, how can we hold the biggest perpetrators accountable knowing everyone loses if they fail.
We can follow them through the change process:
SPACE (“I’m in a privileged position to create change”) —>
GOALS/RESOLUTIONS (“I want to be better than my past self”) —>
SYSTEM (“I will do X daily, rally team Y and conduct quarterly review sessions”) —>
MEASUREMENT (“A monthly deduction in Z means I’m making progress and on track”) —>
SUCCESS (“I’ve achieved what I set out to do at the beginning of my fresh start”)
Many companies haven’t even reached Step 1, but with added pressure externally and internally, we can hold companies (and ourselves) accountable based on hard numbers, not empty words. We focus on the systems adopted and not the pursuit of moral purity.
To those still working on their resolutions, let your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. And don’t forget to measure your progress every carbon free step of the way.
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