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Dear Partners, Associates and friends of GRLI

The title track and video background to this newsletter is the 1992 IBM advertisement featuring two elephants navigating their way across the Namib desert. The song is “He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother” by The Hollies.

Arguably the most urgent work of our time is deep regeneration of the natural environment  through restoration of life-sustaining relationships at multiple levels. This work requires an unwavering commitment from those prepared to do the heavy lifting needed for whole person, whole institution & whole system transformation.

elephants from IBM "He Ain't Heavy" Commercial

The growing certainty of sudden climate tipping points (see the upcoming IPCC report) and recent "unprecedented" weather extremes (record highs in North America, devastating rainfall and mudslides in Asia, flooding and deadly wildfires in Europe) has been accentuated by a “space tourism race” amongst the poster-boys of late-stage capitalism whose effective tax rates appear to be inversely correlated to their carbon footprints. A quick reality check… at the time of writing companies had 5 years and 8 months before depleting the emissions budget for keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C.  The Amazon is now emitting more carbon than it absorbs.

An extraordinary regional example of multiplied effects leading to tipping points in ecosystems was seen in British Columbia, Canada where the town of Lytton set a new all-time high temperature record for 3 days in a row (reaching 121F/49C on 29 June) only to be destroyed by wildfires the following day. The British Columbia heat-related death toll exceeded 700 people, their fruit-growing regions lost up to 75% of major crops, and it is estimated that more than a billion sea creatures perished on the BC coast. While horrifying individually, together these events and actions constitute species level extinction events akin to the 2019/2020 Australian wildfires.

Meanwhile the global pandemic continues to unfold with the global south disproportionately affected as had been expected. The third wave of infections in Africa arrives at a time when only 1% of the continents’ 1.4 Billion inhabitants have been vaccinated. This is in stark contrast to the accessibility of vaccines in the north where zoo animals are now receiving their first vaccine doses. The failure to ignite global solidarity within the pandemic context naturally draws in question our collective handling of the Climate Emergency and 6th mass extinction event.

Which brings me back to the refrain of our title song…

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

Looking after ourselves necessitates looking after everyone. There can be no “us” without “all of us”. Simply tolerating or including the other (be it historically disadvantaged human brothers and sisters, our siblings from the animal and plant kingdom, or life-sustaining ecosystem services) will not be sufficient. Those with the ability and the surplus capacity to do so need to prepare for fully empowering and, if need be, carrying their global siblings. 

So, what might prioritising “all of us” look like? Perhaps it manifests when progress is made on declaring ecocide a crime against peace, or when a global minimum on corporate tax is touted, or when the COVAX Alliance ramps up efforts to bring 520 million vaccines to Africa, or when long-standing symbols of hate are being removed in recognition of the need to create a new inclusive shared context, or when small steps are made towards making work more humane.

  • In a time of permanent crisis, how can we prioritise “all of us” at the me, we and all of us level?
  • How might locally bound empathy and solidarity be expanded to encompass the globe? 
  • How can we move beyond inadequate pledges that minimize inconvenience for a few only to be carried by the suffering of billions?
  • Global responsibility? We hold the questions. 

In this newsletter we highlight a new journal article co-authored by GRLI Guardian Nicola Pless reflecting on the role that leadership has played in the response to the global Covid-19 crisis. We're also pleased to share the full 5-part series of the Responsible Leadership Dialogues with Nicola Pless and social impact investor Peter Wuffli. Also, an open access opportunity from Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, with thanks to our Emerald Publishing colleagues.

You are invited to view recent events, including the 7 July HESI event where GRLI hosted the closing keynote panel with teen climate activist Bea Harrison, a Teach the Future volunteer, and Labode Popoola, Vice-Chancellor of Osun State University. And also the June 17 PRME Global Forum where I joined in a panel alongside GRLI Board Member and AACSB President and CEO, Caryn Beck-Dudley, among others.

We call your attention to updates and events from our Founding Strategic Partners: EMFD's fifteenth anniversary edition of Global Focus magazine and AACSB's 5 August 2021 Global Governance Summit: Re-engineering Governance for Good.

Finally we are pleased to welcome two new representatives to each of the GRLI Board and GRLI Guardians.

Warm wishes,
John North
Executive Director
Upcoming Events
These are some of the upcoming events we'll be supporting and participating in alongside our GRLI colleagues:
  • 13-17 July - NBS  Multi-Sector Dialogue "Sustainable Transformation: Radical Change vs. More of the Same?"
  • 20 & 22 July - Partner & Associate pods - see your email and monthly calendar invites.

    For the July pods we are responding to the urgent need for more diversity in perspectives by inviting Partners and Associates to bring a +1 to the conversation. More specifically someone representing a critical or unheard perspective in the context of our work. Through this we hope to weave a richer tapestry of perspectives on developing global responsibility.
  • 4 August - Monthly 30-minute Educators' Info Session for 30 March 2022 Teach-In on Climate & Justice (Multiple times available)
  • 5 August - AACSB 2021 Global Governance Summit: Re-engineering Governance for Good
  • SAVE THE DATE: 16-18 March 2022 - The International Responsible Leadership Academic Conference hosted by University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa
Welcoming the New Board Members and Guardians Elect
Following the spring Call for Guardians and Board members, expressions of interest and nominations, the GRLI is pleased to welcome two new Board members from our Partner representatives. Peter Møllgaard is Dean of the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). Dayle Smith, Ph.D., is dean of the College of Business Administration at LMU where she leads strategy for executive, graduate and undergraduate programs.
 Hanna-Leena Pesonen
Jeff Thies
After a deliberative nomination and review process, the GRLI is delighted to announce two new Guardians Elect. In the Partner category, we welcome Hanna-Leena Pesonen, Dean and Head of Corporate Environmental Management at Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics (JSBE). Also in the Partner category, we welcome Jeff Thies, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Management at the College of Business Administration at Loyola Marymount University. The Guardians Elect will take up the two-year term in Q4 2021 following an "elect" period starting July. Join us in welcoming them and wishing them well!
HESI Event at the UN High Level Political Forum
GRLI was pleased to help facilitate the 7 July HESI event called "Driving collective action for the SDGs: The role of further education: Building a sustainable and resilient recovery." Watch now.

The Higher Education Sustainability (HESI) Special Event takes place annually during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in order to highlight the critical role of higher education in achieving sustainable development.

The message from youth climate change activist Bea Harrison was heard clearly when she said: "Money may not grow on trees but my generation's future does."
PRME Global Forum
Screen shot of 17 June PRME Global Forum session
GRLI Executive Director John North joined panelists for a 17 June leadership session during the PRME Global Forum. The session was moderated by Dan LeClair, GBSN CEO, with fellow panelists Caryn Beck-Dudley, GRLI Board Member and AACSB President and CEO; Danica Purg, President of IEDC-Bled School of Management, Slovenia, and President of CEEMAN; and John Elkington, acclaimed corporate responsibility expert, Volans founder, and 'Green Swans' author.

The session explored how leadership education can make the most impact in the Decade of Action, starting with an introduction by John Elkington  offering his take on progress over the last 3-4 decades and the challenge we face in the future, especially as it relates to leadership and management development. As a key point, Elkington noted a necessary mindset shift from responsibility to regeneration.
Responsible Leadership Dialogues Video Series
In a 5-part video series, The Responsible Leadership Dialogues Professor Nicola Pless interviews IMD's Honorary Chairman and social impact investor Dr. Peter Wuffli about responsible leadership, entrepreneurship, the elea way and his learning journey towards sustainable impact. View the video series here.
The Fault Lines of Leadership
Image of a cliff edge
In a new article in the Journal of Change Management, co-authors Thomas Maak, Nicola M. Pless & Franz Wohlgezogen compare functional and responsible approaches of political leadership to the Covid-19 crisis with dysfunctional and irresponsible ones. Here in a brief interview with John North, Nicola Pless offers key insights from the article, called "The Fault Lines of Leadership: Lessons from the Global Covid-19 Crisis. Read the interview.
Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal
GRLI Advisor and founding editor of the Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Prof Carol Adams,  alerted us that the SAMPJ is making a special issue available for free download monthly. See Journal news page.
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