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Get Angry and Take Action: Mary Robinson Advises MBA Trailblazers for Climate Change Forum

Business leaders, Trinity MBA alumni and former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, spoke recently at the ‘Business of Climate Change’ in Trinity Business School. Organised by the Climate Change Event Committee - chaired by MBA student Marion Briggs, a series of leaders were invited to speak on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption as part of the Trinity MBA’s Leadership and Professional Development (LPD) module.

Changing the Narrative

Special guest speaker Keith Lambkin, Senior Climatologist at Met Éireann warned that the warming planet will “increase the likelihood of extreme events that often cause mass devastation”. However, he also provided a story of hope. “In the 1970s, scientists warned that a hole in the ozone layer surrounding the earth could have grave effects on human health and the environment. Two years later, after much public outrage, countries negotiated the Montreal Protocol that banned many chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. It’s a perfect example of scientists working with policy makers to put actions in place that can solve problems. Similar narratives today could help combat the devastating effects of climate change.”

Decarbonising the Economy

John Fitzgerald, adjunct professor in Economics at Trinity and Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, discussed business exposure and climate action. Making a plea to carbon intensive businesses, he said, “There is no doubt that we need to consume less, but will we be prepared to go back to a lesser standard of living? The alternative is to find technologies that allow us to have a reasonable standard of living whilst eliminating climate change and we need to harness markets to deliver on this. If we take cars as an example, simply driving less is not enough; we need companies to change and know that they will go out of business if they don’t produce electric and carbon-free vehicles. The damage done to the world from doing too little is far greater than doing too much.”

Demonstrating Ethical Leadership

CEO of smartphone app Evocco Ahmad Muazzam added, “When it comes to making strategic decisions, it is vital to look at it in terms of not just profit but sustainability – are you giving back? There needs to be social impact in everything that we do.”

Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School, introduced Mary Robinson and highlighted the school’s vision of developing a community that shows ethical leadership and forces change.
Discussing how business students can effect change Robinson said, “Business students should be speaking out constantly to government – yes we have a climate change plan at last but unless business steps up and talks through the problems we are not going to see political leaders stick with it. Businesses need to step up; government listen to them more than anyone else.”

Take it Personally and Take Action

Reflecting on her exchanges with business communities, Robinson gave a clear message on how to take action: “There are three steps you must take. Firstly, take climate change personally in your own life – do something that you weren’t doing before. Reduce your own demand and your own emissions. Recycle more efficiently, use public transport, and change your eating habits. When you’ve made it personal, take ownership in a way that everyone needs to. Secondly, get angry and get active about those with more responsibility that aren’t taking responsibility such as businesses and transport authorities. Use your voice and your vote. Support climate action and conservation groups. Finally, imagine this world in the future. The problem with communicating climate change is the doom and gloom aspect of it all. Realistically if we meet our 2030 sustainable development goals it’s going to be a much better world. We won’t have water pollution, air pollution and all these environmental challenges.”

I Am Not an Optimist, I Am a Prisoner of Hope

Summarising, Robinson spoke of a lesson she learned whilst on a panel with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. “When asked if he was optimistic he replied, “I am not an optimist, I am a prisoner of hope”, a profound statement given the life he has led. I feel very strongly that we need that mixture of hope, innovation, positive attitudes and a willingness to change. I am very hopeful that events like this evening can lead us to a much better world and that’s what we need to go forward with.”

Learn more about the Trinity MBA here.