We are coming to the end of August, and we usually call the summer vacation period the silly season. The expression originates in the United Kingdom, in the second half of the 19th century, and consisted in the fact that, the summer period there tended to be less rigorous of news in the media, starting to consider as relevant topics those that normally wouldn’t be reported (also a result of parliamentary work being interrupted during this period).

But if during “the silly season”, as if by contagion effect, the world is less connected to what is important, this will mean that in the remaining months of the year we are attentive, focused, and responsible to have the positive impact we want (and should) have in People, in Society, in the Planet? We, as citizens, workers, managers, leaders (regardless of the leadership dimension of each one)?

Let's look at 3 different indicators to better understand if, by any chance, we are not distracted and living in a long silly season that lasts beyond August:

  • 940 million people (13% of the world population) still do not have access to electricity, which as we know is essential for improving living standards (ourworldindata.org; SDG 7);
  • In the EU-27 11.8% of the raw materials used in the economy are reused, and in Portugal 2.3%, far from the Netherlands (30%) and close to Romania (1.3%). According to INE/Pordata, considering the last 5 years, Portugal presents a negative evolution in the set of indicators related to sustainable production and consumption (SDG 12).
  • In 2021, in Portugal, 2.3 million people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion (INE, Dec 2021; SDG 1)


These are clear data that appeal, everyone agrees, to a sense of urgency, collective and individual, for action and impact. The enormity of the challenges often leads us to feel powerless to solve the equation. In addition to this, if we consider the necessity to guarantee the basics of everyday management, in our family, in our work, in our contexts, it is not uncommon to mentally address these major concerns to "someone", resigning ourselves to act, because these “abstract entities” will surely be dealing with that somehow. Isn't this silly (season) behaviour?!

UNEP has launched Act Now: Speak Up, an initiative that shows how citizens can influence governments and businesses to improve their climate challenge, while also supporting more informed decision-making! And for those who want to take a step forward, thinking sustainable living as positive things they can do daily to live better, the digital tool Anatomy of Action supports the definition of priorities in concrete actions based on science and data!

And speaking of data, studies by UNEP show that, for 68% of the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals related to the environment, there is not enough data to assess their progress. Digital transformation is a unique opportunity, with digital initiatives leveraging technology to help stop the decline of our planet and accelerate investment decisions and sustainable lifestyles. There is an incredible opportunity for "everyone to enter the game"!

I was fortunate to grow professionally with half a dozen inspiring leaders who consistently led by example, and to meet many other leaders around the world who make this practice the most basic exercise in leadership. It is the simplest and fastest way to learn and to have a relevant structural impact around us. Leading by example, taking responsibility for clear sustainability practices is also something that the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows us, from the way they manage their buildings, biodiversity and water management in their spaces, to transport solutions and mobility for its employees, energy consumption, recycling practices and responsible sourcing! Several examples, some small, others not so much, but that show how replicable structural decisions can positively affect the world around us, and, therefore, People and the Planet. Responsible Business in action!

The evidence is plain to see, the data available is unquestionable and the examples inspiring. The challenge is to increase the level of involvement of all stakeholders, leveraging the power of people, organizations, companies to change behaviours, attitudes, new types of leadership, and actions with impact. If it is true that changes are made step-by-step and that the paths taken in recent decades do not apply tout court, it is no less true that at a time, such as the current one, in which the world conjuncture is of high uncertainty, instability, volatility, the only guarantee we have is that the way forward, not being 100% clear, requires us not to live in a permanent silly season waiting for someone to solve the challenges for us. It's in our hands to leave this silly season!

Have a great and impactful week!

Nuno Vaz Neto
Executive in Residence
Center for Responsible Business & Leadership


This article refers to edition #153 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter and covers SDG 1, 7, and 12.
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