• Peter Watts
  • 16 July 2012

Investing in happiness

Yesterday I completed teaching our latest IEMA accredited Foundation Course in Environmental Management to a really engaged and diverse group of students whose backgrounds included manufacturing, major infrastructure, rail, printing and FM. One thing that they had in common was a passion for the environment.

Things have moved on so much from the days when I started working in the environment where being seen as ‘green’ often equated with words like ‘grungey’, ‘greebo’ or heaven forbid ‘geeky’.  People have always had core values around the environment and sometimes it takes a little training or consensus building to bring those values into the workplace. Sustainability has become mainstream and the financial and reputational benefits that this affords are a plus for organisation and employee alike.

One of my professors, whilst studying for my MSc, was Tim Jackson, formerly economics commissioner at the (sadly) disbanded Sustainable Development Commission. Tim’s ideas revolve around the concept of rethinking types of economic growth and away from the mantra of growth at any cost. He states that unconstrained growth is environmentally devastating and illogical being that so much of what we have on earth is finite. He also makes the case that a simple increase in GDP (gross domestic product) does not automatically mean more jobs and more prosperity, at least not for a developed economy such as ours.  He contends for a new paradigm where growth is achieved from businesses investing in ‘happiness’ as a core part of their business model. Tim argues that we need to focus our efforts on businesses that allow human beings to flourish and  it makes sense to expand in the services that improve our lives, like health, education, social care, recreation and culture.

One of the students on the FCEM introduced the group to a previously unknown activity (to me at least!) called ‘geocaching’. Participants embark on a type of treasure hunt following clues from an application on their IPhone or the geocache website to find the ‘treasure’ which consists of a small canister containing a piece of paper which the participants add their name to and can then register their name on the geocache website. The geocache can often be in a really obscure position such as attached to the underside of a bench or wall or in the crevice of a statue! In the case of the ‘geocache’ we tracked down last night, it was lodged in a section of the London Wall just a couple of hundred metres away from our London training centre. Lots of fun doing an activity that gets people engaged with their local environment and out in the fresh air!