Chapter 12: Leadership and Change

  • Carbon literacy (Carbon Literacy Project)
  • The four-day week
  • labour shortages
  • sport – making sport sustainable
  • Indicative solutions to questions concluding the chapter (Chapter 12)

Carbon literacy

Achieving change in organizations depends on a number of factor: culture (and the propensity for change), coercive, transactional or authentic leadership, or just urgency arising from declining performance, shocks (pandemics, for example) or innovation. Little changes, however, without an engaged and informed workforce. When it comes to climate change and cutting emissions, carbon literacy is essential. The text offers the example of cutting carbon emissions merely by switching off computers when not in use, and considers procurement challenges associated with replacement vis-a-vis retention (using machines to life expiry).

Managers may not wholly understand carbon literacy themselves. Hence, organizations such as The Carbon Literacy Project offer firms employee training programmes to embed responsible carbon use/decisions; to normalize them. Below is a vox pop of BBC North employees having undertaken the training.

Change – moving to the four-day week

The four-day week competes with universal basic income as one of the change challenges of the decade. The text makes reference to four-day week as a mechanism to relieve the pressure on resources and to displace some valuable economic activity into worthy causes. The four-day week is discussed in Chapter 14 in the context of scenarios for the future. But essentially it is a change management issue. Employees are not always convinced that 4 days rather than 5 is in their interests. We await the results of the significant trials that are taking place. The book makes reference to Unilever in New Zealand and microsoft in Japan (p254). The evidence so far shows the following benefits:

  • improved productivity
  • job satisfaction
  • establishment of micro-businesses (particularly amongst Gen Z)
  • upskilling
  • volunteering
  • wellbeing.

Since the text was written, a UK think-tank, Autonomy, and the 4-day week Campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University are running a major trail with 60 SMEs 3000 employees (starting in June 2022) involving . ITV has reported on this with a useful 8-minute video that can be used in class to present the case and test the ideas.

Dealing with a shortage of labour

Labour shortages are real and problematic for all kinds of firms. The so-called “great resignation” is a true phenomenon, at least in the USA, but the pandemic has focused employees minds on what is important and worth intensive working hours and career advancement. Men, in particular, have left the labour market (often retiring early or changing careers completely). Reduced immigration is also a factor, particularly in the UK after Brexit, for example. There are a number of approaches for firms. These include:

  • increasing wages (often well above the stipulated minimum wages in countries that have them)
  • creating full-time jobs from part-time jobs and zero-hour contracts
  • automation – particularly in labour-intensive jobs such as picking and packing. Higher labour costs make the investment more cost-effective
  • reducing services – for example, in hotels, room cleaning, restocking, etc., is reduced to, say, every three days rather than daily
  • reducing qualification requirements – in particular whether a 4-year degree is necessary
  • in-house training and apprenticeships
  • renewed focus on wellbeing

All of these are interesting and recognised across sectors. The Economist article that I have drawn on (How America’s talent wars are reshaping business, 5 February 2022) does not mention “purpose”. Firms that prioritise a progressive purpose beyond profit do recruit and retain better than those that do not. Managers, owners and shareholders, take note.

Sport and climate

Chapter 12 discusses the impact that climate change has on sport and the effect that sport has on climate change, especially with respect to major events such as the Olympics and the football world cup. The most recent Winter Olympics in Beijing relied totally on fake snow and whilst it was created using 100pc renewable energy, the water “footprint” as it were was huge. The impacts on biodiversity was also significant as the Olympic park was built on a forest (destroyed, of course, in the process).

Dr. Madeleine Orr is a sports ecologist at Loughborough University London, and the founder of The Sport Ecology Group. She is here interviewed by Jelena Sofronijevic on the Bunker podcast.

The series narrated by Jonathan Overend, Emergency on Planet Sport, can provide a more comprehensive commentary on sport and the environment with a detailed look at different sports and the impact of climate change on the health and wellbeing of athletes.

Indicative solutions to questions concluding the chapter (Chapter 11)