It’s not common to hear one of the world’s top business executives speak about love and connectedness. But that’s the message sustainability activist Lawrence Bloom will bring to campus this week.
The former chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Urban Management and the current Secretary General of the Be Earth Foundation will give a talk titled, “How do we Affect the Cause Rather than Cause the Effect?”, at Wells Fargo Auditorium on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Bloom is also among several featured speakers at the School of Business’ Impact Day taking place on Thursday, March 28.
The internationally renowned Bloom, whose talk on campus is sponsored by the Sustainability Literacy Institute, is one of the world’s most prominent proponents of social sustainability. He is a vice chair of the Climate Prosperity Alliance, a senior fellow and member of the Board of Directors of Global Urban Development, co-chair of the GUD program committee on Generating Sustainable Economic Development, and vice chairman of Climate Prosperity Strategies, LLC.
“It’s really important that we begin to rethink our society’s practices,” he explains. “For me, we’re in a crisis time. We’re moving from an age of change, an age that produced rocket ships that can go to the moon and beyond, and cell phones that have tremendous computing power. And yet, we’re destroying the very ecosystems upon which we depend to derive those advances. Something dramatic needs to happen soon if we are to correct this, and it will ultimately involve our interconnectedness.”
Bloom, who is regarded as a pioneer in environmental sustainability, developed the first operations manual for environmentally sustainable practices in the hotel industry. Today, that plan is now used in over 5 million hotel bedrooms worldwide. (It’s why guests at many hotels can choose whether or not to have their towels washed every night, saving millions of gallons of water.)
These days, Bloom has switched his focus to the social aspects of sustainability.
“Somehow,” he says, “we seem to have decided that unless our limited view of seeing and hearing is satisfied, nothing beyond that is of value. And that is sheer nonsense. We know there’s a whole range of sounds that are beyond our ability to hear. And cosmologists know that there are stars and planets we cannot see. We know that there are intelligences beyond our deepest understandings. And if you recognize that, you ultimately have to speak about love. You have to speak about connectedness.”
He continues, “Take this example. The British government recently calculated that it costs $40,000 every time an ex-prisoner reoffends and returns to the penal system. But it costs $7,500 to bring together resources that teach a previous offender and advise that person on job creation, anger management and housing, etc., advice that might very well keep that same person from reoffending.”
Governments, unfortunately, aren’t great at putting together these types of programs and funding initiatives, says Bloom. But many charities are. He points to a recently funded $7.5 million bond by a philanthropic prisoner charity in the U.K. aimed at rehabilitating prison inmates.
“Before this experiment, the recidivism rate at that prison was 85 percent,” he says. “After the program was implemented, however, it was so successful that the charity redeemed the bond and enjoyed a seven percent return. And that money was reinvested! This is the beginning of an understanding regarding the value of positive externalities.”
Bloom says he’s always optimistic about the human condition, and the future. Yet, he’s mindful of the steep challenges we face.
“As our society evolves to the point of ‘a change of age,’ things begin to break down. Naturally, we focus on that,” he says. “We see a broken political system that struggles to accomplish anything. But we shouldn’t be too focused on what is breaking down. Perhaps, instead, we should focus on what’s breaking through – what is trying to emerge. Maybe our confrontational politics are creating an opening, a space for a new way of governing. I know the young people among us see this. We should be looking at what alternative systems are emerging and we should be ready to encourage and embrace those, as they truly are our future!”