Norman Crowley is the Founder and Group CEO of CoolPlanet, a conglomerate of companies working with globabl industry to help cool the planet.
Note: This piece was originally published in Business & Finance magazine, vol. 59, no. 2, available to read, with compliments, here.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Will Durant, 1926 [misattributed to Aristotle 325BC]
In 1897, the physicist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin looked at all the tremendous advancements in electricity, astronomy and biology that marked his age and concluded:
“There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” So, everyone went home and had a nice cup of tea. Well, maybe not Einstein. Or Feynman. Or Katalin Karikó.
Humanity is still not short of problems to solve. Notwithstanding we live in an age of information overload which plays to all of our evolutionary hangovers and biases (the World probably isn’t falling apart as much as we think, but bad news gets more attention), the impending climate catastrophe is one thing we really do need to pay attention to. But if we want to enter a new era of excellence to tackle the problem, we need to create some new habits.
History is littered with new habits that ushered in profound change. The car became the fastest horse. The lightbulb became the brightest candle. The email became the quickest letter. And “influencer” became the most annoying profession.
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” — Captain Jack Sparrow.
In 1907 there were 140,300 cars registered in the U.S. Ten years later in 1917, there had been a 33-fold increase in the number of cars registered, to almost 5 million. In 2008 Tesla was given a 10% chance of success, in 2021 it was valued at 3x that of Toyota – $2 trillion; the emergence of the EV is becoming a habit.
So how do we create the right attitude and habits to solve the problem of climate change? I posit that we don’t do this by telling people they can’t drive nice cars, go on foreign holidays or eat a steak or two. We need to inspire people, inspire a generation, to take action because it will actually make their lives better today.
The past two decades have been dominated by the growth of the FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google for those who aren’t familiar). The wealth creation of this has been phenomenal in what has essentially been an attention economy.
Everybody is vying for, and monetizing, your attention.
My question is, how do we change this paradigm and make the next set of unicorns, dedocorns and hectocorns (yes, dedocorns and hectocorns are a thing, I’ll let you look them up) about climatech? How do we make the next two decades about clean energy, efficiency, and plenty without compromise? How do we live our lives, unlimited?
What we do is change our attitude toward the problem. Let’s talk about food. Agriculture accounts for around 20% of global carbon emissions — about 8 billion tonnes of CO2 annually. We don’t solve the climate crisis without addressing that problem. And on the face of it, it is a difficult one. In our comfortable lives in the West, should we dictate to people in emerging economies, who are getting wealthier, that they shouldn’t enjoy a steak?
But you might not realise we are on the cusp of the deepest, fastest, most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production since the first domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago. This is caused by the rapid emergence of cell-based meat: meat that is composed of animal cells grown outside an animal in a bioreactor. These products are genetically identical to conventional animal products.
The cost of proteins will be five times cheaper by 2030, and 10 times cheaper by 2035, than existing animal proteins before ultimately approaching the cost of sugar. They will also be superior in every key attribute – more nutritious, healthier, better tasting, and more convenient, with almost unimaginable variety.
This means that, by 2030, modern food products will be higher quality and cost less than half as much to produce as the animal-derived products they replace.
So, with the attitude that we can solve a problem and are willing to try, we can create new habits and usher in a new era of excellence where humanity can feed itself without compromise. That is excellence.
What will this new era of excellence entail? It will be built on curiosity and a willingness, an attitude, take action to solve problems and look at things differently. It will be built on a new form of social contract that values meaningful outcomes. In a time where we are living through the Great Resignation, people are now valuing life more than work, it will be built on inspiring people – who don’t have to be there – to make a difference.
The social contract goes both ways. If it ever was good enough to go to school, then university then get a job for a reputable company that you stay with for all your career, it is no longer the case. Education is a life-long activity which should be embraced.
The half-life of knowledge — the time it takes for half your knowledge to be proven incorrect or obsolete — can be as short as a few years.
Employees must build a habit of curiosity, learn how to learn, reframe the big problems. The next big companies will be built by people who are willing to dream and take action, not those who follow the herds.
The next generation of world-changing companies will be built on all of these things. They will be focused on creating a sustainable future. They will be mission-driven. They will be inclusive. They will solve the big problems of climate change by doing things differently and inspiring all of the stakeholders to be involved and active. They will create new habits and be forces for good, not just profit.
“If you were waiting for the opportune moment, that was it.” — Captain Jack Sparrow.
Norman was the recipient of a special recognition award for his contribution to ESG issues at the inaugural Business & Finance ESG Awards.
Upon receiving the prize, Mr. Crowley said, “I’m very honoured to receive this award and am encouraged by the enthusiasm of every entrant at the Business & Finance ESG awards today.”
“We all have a responsibility to maintain our planet and our goal is to assist companies in doing so. It makes sense that a strong ESG proposition creates value for a company, and that is where Cool Planet enters the conversation; We help companies become more ESG conscious, saving them money at the same time.”
“I believe that companies need to be encouraged and not forced to become more ESG conscious. I extend my thanks to the Business & Finance team for this award,” the CoolPlanet CEO added.
Carrot and Stick
Norman also spoke at last year’s Business Show where he outlined the measures being taken to facilitate climate change.
“It’s classic carrot and stick,” he said in his conversation with Dara Connolly, CEO, Common Purpose.
“The stick is regulation. The price of carbon in Europe is rising all the time. Legislation is tightening in every European country and around the world. Where you have big corporations in those countries they need to abide by regulation so that forces change. The stick is starting to work.
“The carrot is money, cost reduction. If you go green, you can reduce cost. You need a combination of both carrot and stick. Now for the first time we’re starting to see that.”