Moral courage

I’m on my way to Atlanta, Georgia to work for a company that that started a radical sustainability journey more than 20 years ago when it’s CEO, against accepted commercial norms, declared that he could no longer do business that destroyed the planet. He set out a moral leadership agenda to transform industry.

I’m watching Selma, the story of Martin Luther Kings search for dignity, for all – also in Georgia. An excellent film that captures his steadfast courage in the face of opposition that felt safeguarded by social norms – sheltered by ‘this is just the way things are around here’.

Although their focus, impact and journeys are very different, I’m deeply inspired by the moral courage of both men. They demonstrated a different way and, through articulating clear visions, led transformative action toward a better world.

I’m reflecting that –

One person with a commitment to an agenda that’s bigger than our current world view can shift majority perception.

Although the process of change may have tragic costs – the end result ultimately outweighs these.

In many instances policy has been designed to support the status quo and change has to happen outside its boundaries. This may be a clergyman acting beyond that which is considered ‘permissible behaviour’ or a business leader defining their activities far beyond what the law deems ‘good enough’.

Opposite conditions are often the breeding ground for real change to occur. Perhaps the real danger isn’t at the polar-end of an ideal, but in the middle ground where the real dangers of a situation are obscured by some compromise.

Real changhuman rightse requires visibility. Visibility, in one case, from a business that can showcase that a radical shift away from carbon based manufacture is possible and profitable in a country steadfastly sticking to the carbon agenda. Visibility in the second case of a widely broadcast incident that shows police brutality against fellow human beings and the cross-race support for the persecuted. Whether it is the bottom line results or demonstrators from all race groups – once people have seen possibility they can no longer ‘un-see’ it. It is the seed for change.

Change is two steps forward, one step back. It needs to power beyond the step back with a deep moral certainty. The belief that “we will triumph because there is no other way”.

A long term vision is required – defining a vision that outlasts you not one confined by short term reporting, this weeks sermon or even your own life time.

The names of these leaders remain, long after their deaths. Their legacy has outlasted their peers who towed the line, did the right thing, stood by.

We live on a shared planet that desperately needs more of this kind of leadership. Those people that are powered to act outside of rules that no longer serve our greater humanity, guided by a bigger, better vision of what is possible for our world.

And we need recognition of those courageous leaders out there today, tirelessly working towards a bigger agenda and a better world.

Thank you all.


Inspired by the film ‘Selma’ about Martin Luther King and the book ‘Confessions of a Radical Industrialist’ by Ray Anderson of Interface.


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