Almost two years ago my idea for ESG Ireland was born, in Argentina of all places. On a little laptop in a funky hostel in a small town called Tilcara, in the Jujuy province in northern Argentina, the seeds were sown and ESG.ie became real.
I had one very clear objective from the start; to develop an ESG knowledge centre that could help decision makers with the integration of Environmental, Social and Governance factors in the decision-making process. The idea was, and still is very simple. It is about sharing knowledge.
When I think about knowledge sharing, I am always drawn to a history lesson from a local Mayan guide during my visit to the Mayan temples in Chichén Itzá in the Yucatan Peninsula, Eastern Mexico.
The temples/pyramids were designed by the astronomers and the mathematicians of the time – based on knowledge of the solar system – to signal the time for planting and harvesting. This was invaluable information to the farmers and the working people looking to survive off the land.
However, rather than democratise the source of knowledge, it became the mode of control for the elites. The farmers were merely provided with the relevant dates for planting and harvesting, never allowed to learn the source of this knowledge.
Amazingly, the caste system ran so deep the all-knowing elites went to some unusual ways to sustain the illusion of superiority. They changed the shape of their heads! These elites – governors, priests and the astronomers – would actually reshape the heads of their babies over the first three months of their lives. Every night a piece of equipment was used to apply pressure to the baby’s cranium, in turn changing the future development of the skull.
Governors had cone heads, priests had flat heads, and the astronomers had long heads. The working people believed these people were born this way. Along with their ability to tell the future seasons this was further confirmation of their divine status.
While we don’t have any coneheads walking around today, it is still this asymmetry of knowledge – one party having more knowledge than the other – which drives our economic development, investment and society.
If we want a more sustainable and inclusive economy, then we need a much more informed population. One needs knowledge to hold power accountable. For me, that is what ESG is fundamentally about, more accountability. The purpose of ESG Ireland is to make sure people have the knowledge to realise the full potential of applying ESG.
We live in a very corporate and political world, full of inner circles. However, I still believe that one individual can make a real difference. It can be directly, but also indirectly by being a positive influence on others. Inspire.
We should all be asking ourselves the question: how can I as an individual, given my education and/or experiences influence change for the better? Be part of the solution to building a more sustainable and compassionate society.
Out of nothing I started ESG Ireland. There have been challenges along the way and long hours, but now month by month more members are joining the ESG Ireland community, committed to making ESG and responsible investing accessible to everyone. I have also got some major new initiatives on the way that will bring real change.
In life, everyone craves certainty, but it is in the uncertainty where you get to test yourself the most. You also get to see who you can really count on. Discipline and perseverance are what make the difference. Also, the Godfather was right, having a consigliere you can rely on is invaluable.
There is a lot more to come.
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