Group Therapy at the Clinton Global Initiative
The following excerpt is from a blog post written by Maria Surma Manka for Earth&Industry.com. Maria was in New York this week attending the Clinton Global Initiative and created a series of insightful blog posts about the experience. We thank Maria for sharing, and invite you to visit Earth&Industry for her complete blog post series.
Who would’ve thought that a convening of so many policy wonks, business suits, and serious-minded NGOs at the Clinton Global Initiative would result in some of the best entertainment I’ve seen in a while? Laughter! Tears! Rants!
Continuing the day’s theme of market-based solutions, a discussion of this strategy to address environmental issues was held with Wal-Mart senior VP of sustainability Matt Kistler, Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz and The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist, M. Sanjayan.
This is hard work noted Swartz:
“The private sector is not the answer, because there is no answer. The absence of leadership is the crisis – the government needs to do their job and set regulations. And NGOs think perfect is the enemy of good – if we [Timberland] stick our necks out, they [NGOs] chop it off. We can only have a conversation about solutions if government can unpuff its chest, if business can uncross its arms, and if activists can stop spitting on us all! I was at Copenhagen…it was all rhetoric. I’m afraid we’re losing the war.”
As Swartz took a breather from this (really insightful) run, Sanjayan jumped in to agree: “What moves players to get involved in partnership? Self interest…I don’t think people really care about their grandkids, actually. We’re too self-centered for that. I think maybe people care about their kids, but that’s about as far as they go.”
As the session came to a close and the mood spiraled downward, Kistler of Wal-Mart had one of the last words about working together for sustainability and change. I couldn’t catch all that he was saying, as he got very emotional and choked up at this point. But what was clear from this discussion – from the rants, jokes and tears – was that this sustainability work is damn difficult. Companies, NGOs and governments are working on it, but results can come painfully slowly in some cases, not at all in others, and in the end you question the overall impact of your years of sweat anyway. I’m not saying we should go easy on the big guys, but let’s just take a breath and acknowledge that this work is rough. In the end, we all hope to make a difference…grandkids or not.