Harnessing the momentum of compassion

By Rachel Brown

We’re in the midst of a pivotal time in our history. On the same day we saw our children rise up to demand action on climate change, we witnessed the very worst in humanity. We went from hope to horror in the space of a few hours.

The events of March 15 brought to light a lot that’s not right in our country. They brought into stark reality a myriad of issues we need to work on: diversity, inclusion, and climate change for starters.  The mirror was held up to our diverse set of faces. For many, it was a wake up call. While for others, frankly, it was no surprise because they had been warning us about this for years. Sound familiar? The parallels with climate change and other system failings are very clear and real.

And yet the last 10 days have given me so much hope. I’ve never seen such an outpouring of grief or a nationwide coming together of our communities – the opening of arms between ethnic groups, between generations, between religions, and between political parties as we grieve together. There is a genuine desire to unite for a better future. We even had a very quick response from Government on gun laws.

Over the last week I have been talking to many of you. We know that some have been directly affected by the tragedy, and our hearts go out to all the families and businesses that have lost someone. We also know that some of you are scared of what might come next. Many of you are taking action in response to that horrific day.  We love that you are doing that!

It’s time now to move from sleeping denial to real action. Now, more than ever, we need to take an honest appraisal of the challenges that lie ahead for our country, such as social injustice, exclusion, climate change and water quality.

These issues are the result of failures of our systems, so tackling them is going to require action on all fronts. We’re all part of the system, so the solutions we need are going to be diverse. We have a responsibility, particularly those of us in leadership positions, to act. It’s time to pull on our big brave pants and give these things a crack.

For our friends in Christchurch, we can continue to take practical action like donating money or goods. We should also be checking in with the people we work with to ensure they are OK. We need to be providing support and an opportunity to talk where necessary. This Idealog article has some really wonderful ideas.

Together, we can drive action in some areas such as climate change and water quality. SBN’s new GulfX project is working on practical ways businesses can help clean up the Hauraki Gulf, utilising indigenous wisdom. Million Metres brings communities together to restore our waterways. And we’re using low-carbon circular economy thinking to take a new look at the way we use resources and materials. At the heart of our work is the connection between people and nature, and empowering business to take action.

We know many of our members are already helping their people and the Muslim communities. For this we are really grateful. I feel privileged to work alongside such a caring network of organisations that care about people and the planet. Let us harness this momentum of compassion to change New Zealand for the better.

Rachel Brown ONZM, CEO, Sustainable Business Network