Paris Climate Accord Debate: Tone from the Top or Not?

Steven Minsky | June 6, 2017

At lunch recently, I opened my fortune cookie and found this message inside: “Any journey must begin with a single step, and you can be the one to take it.” That simple message inspired me to write this blog.

Events taking place after the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris climate agreement have demonstrated there is more than one way to get things done.

A few mayors throughout the country individually decided to take action. Now, the movement has blossomed, and more than 200 mayors, seven governors, and the state of California have stepped up to meet the Paris climate accord obligations.

Emissions come mostly from cities and their dense populations. If these cities operationalize climate policies themselves, emissions will be reduced – regardless of whether or not the Paris Agreement has executive support.

This reminds us of an important fact: formalized, centralized support, whether from the federal government or a corporation’s board, is not required to implement a policy. The front-line operating departments are where the rubber meets the road in terms of real action.

Just Because It Can’t Be Done the “Normal” Way Doesn’t Mean It Can’t Be Done at All

Recently, headlines have been filled with outrages and scandals related to poor governance. The Wells Fargo accounts scandal, the Volkswagen emissions scandal, and the Chipotle outbreak are just a few examples of what can result from poor governance and risk management.

Employees around the world may look at events like those listed above and think, How could my own actions, or even my team’s actions, possibly influence such large-scale events? After all, if senior leadership doesn’t prioritize risk management and the prevention of surprises, isn’t it next to impossible for individual departments to take action?

Good governance and all its attributes can exist at any level. Front-line managers, the operational level, are the biggest influencers on the achievement of strategic goals.

When you see an opportunity for improvement at your organization, how are you going to act? Unification through a common cause – whether within or across departments – is a powerful catalyst for change.

The 211 mayors that have continued to support the Paris climate accord are a source of inspiration and evidence that #goodgovernance is powerful at the operational level.

Stepping forward and fighting to manage tomorrow’s surprises today can and should be done – with or without the “tone from the top.”

Enterprise risk management is never a check-the-box exercise and is more than a just a process. It’s a mission to fight negligence, prevent scandals, and create empowerment by turning outrage into positive outcomes. We can put an end to endless meetings, the politics of resource allocation, and the dysfunction of disparate, tedious processes in silos that threaten our livelihood and what we believe in.

We are not innocent bystanders and we are not powerless. We are the “mayors” of our working groups at our organizations. We demand good governance, and ERM is the best way to achieve it.

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