by Claudine Blamey, ICRS Chair, Head of Sustainability and Stewardship, The Crown Estate —Watching the UK’s EU referendum results come in provided more tension, anxiety and delight (at least for 52% of the population) than most acclaimed TV drama boxsets. Since then, the Prime Minister has resigned, his heir apparent has dramatically withdrawn from the race and the opposition has fallen into disarray with a vote of no confidence in their leader. And that’s just the political sphere.
If there is one word that best sums up the consciousness of the nation right now it’s ‘uncertain’. Britain’s decision to end its relationship with the European Union after more than four decades clouds the vision of what the future looks like, and how bright it might be.
As a profession, those of us working in corporate responsibility and sustainability (CRS) are not immune to that uncertainty. There are suggestions that the historic Paris Agreement struck at COP21 last Christmas – the foundations of many CRS programmes – might have to be re-written. Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has suggested Brexit forces the global pact to be “recalibrated”.
However, there are already signs of hope. Fears that the UK’s commitment to carbon reduction would be an early casualty of EU referendum were allayed last week as the Government announced ambitious new targets for 2030.
There will, no doubt, be some calls to de-prioritise the green agenda while business gathers its composure once more and heads into firefighting mode. The strength of a company’s commitment to CRS will surely be tested like never before. Some might argue that it’s easy to do the right thing when businesses are thriving, but the real test of values is surely doing the right thing when things aren’t so clement.
In the coming weeks and months, uncertainty and complexity will be the order of the day, as companies continue to take stock, markets settle down and we all figure out what will be the short- and long-term implications of the vote.
Brexit might be sending shockwaves through industries everywhere right now. But economic and political anxieties should only reinforce a need for companies tominimise future risk,cutcostsand find innovative new ways of doing business.
Thankfully, ‘the unknown’ is not a new bedfellow for CRS professionals and while the fog will take some time to clear, we will continue to help keep business on the right track in ensuring their social and environmental goals are met. We will continue to help build stronger, more resilient businesses. And we will continue to influence and persuade business leaders that robust, sustainable organisations are more relevant than ever.