Talking about progress
Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth CEO at Alliance Manchester Business School, 11 February 2016
What might a concept of real progress look like that considers the long-term physical, sociological and emotional needs of humanity?
Such was the starting point for a thought-provoking hour of debate as Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth CEO, delivered the annual Grigor McClelland lecture at Alliance MBS.
Craig said society was ignoring “progress traps” such as the desire for ever more technology, the extraction of more fossil fuels, and a continued focus on economic growth as an end in its own right. “If you take technology, we have to have a mature approach and not behave like a child in a sweet shop. If you look at these extraordinary inventions we are seeing in areas such as synthetic biology and Artificial Intelligence, are we jumping in without properly understanding the impacts?”
Craig said he was not denying the progress we have made as a species or to wish it hadn’t happened. “I’d even go as far as saying fossil fuels have been good to an extent in that they took us to a certain place and enabled things to happen. The point is are we now denying ourselves much greater progress because we have lost sight of what matters? Are we losing track of what is essential to us as humans such as our affinity with nature?”
He added that climate change and growing global inequalities posed major threats. “If we end up with four degrees of global warming that is about the difference between now and the last Ice Age.”
Craig added that universities and business schools have an incredibly important role in helping to understand what are the real needs of society. “Studies have shown that 95 per cent of MBA students think sustainability should be included in the finance and accounting curriculum. Companies that do well in the 21st century will be those with a clearly defined purpose, and that has to incorporate a public purpose and benefit and not just a private benefit.”