The Challenge for Norway is to have courage and think differently, says business mentor Ed Gillespie

Ed Gillespie at the docks in Molde, after giving his keynote on Vårsleppet 2019.

Ed Gillespie at the docks in Molde, after giving his keynote on Vårsleppet 2019.

Published June 5th 2019.

The climate crisis is urgent. That also creates enormous opportunity for doing things better, says marine biologist and business mentor Ed Gillespie.

Gillespie gave a keynote addressing the sources of the pressing matters and adviced on how we as individuals and organisations can make it through the crisis at Vårsleppet, an annual event hosted by NCE iKuben.

About Ed Gillespie

How to get leaders to prioritize sustainability when they profit from today’s situation

– The first response to that is there is no magic bullet or set formula. One of the ways of going in is to identify perhaps the most receptive member of the board and try and work with them on how you might pitch your ideas or ambitions to their peers. So it's like finding an insider who might be sympathetic or already aligned with the sustainability agenda.

Alternatively, you can go perhaps a bit more of a quantitative way. So you could look at science-based targets on climate change, and then you try and align those with the business strategy, and use climate change as a way of driving innovation and driving efficiency across the organisation.

The other way to do it is to try and do a survey or incorporate into the study of people in the organisation to show that employees are very engaged and very personally concerned with these big sustainability challenges. So use that as a lever to say "actually, this business cares, and the C-suite needs to respond to the concerns of its employees and to do things differently."

Is capitalism here to stay?

– It's always the biggest philosophical question. In its most basic form capitalism is incredibly problematic, because it requires us to extract primary resources, and repackage them, and it requires infinite growth on a finite planet. So I think there's a big question about whether capitalism in its current form can give us the changes we require.

Now that's not to say that you throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think there's lots of initiatives, like the Benefit Corporation movement coming out of America, like the ideas around social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, which can take some of the better aspects of capitalism in terms of the way we organise and structure ourselves. But perhaps turn it around so the focus of, or the reason for existence, is about delivering social and environmental value as a priority, rather than solely profit and shareholder value.

So it's not to say that property and shareholder value are problematic per se, but what we need is also enlightened shareholders who are looking for a social and environmental return as well as an economic one, and for businesses to realise that the transcendent sense of a bigger-than-self-purpose is what really motivates people.

You know, most people want to do good in the world!

It's about being our better selves and when we add that together forming better organisations which create a better impact on the world.

How can Norwegians make the transition from an oil-driven economy?

– You guys are perhaps the best example in the world of how the mineral wealth has been captured for the benefit of the nation. So I think when you look at the extraordinary quality of life that you enjoy here, and your generosity internationally, you can see why the people would be "drunk on oil." It's because fosill fuel has brought many good things for the country.

That said, we've made multiple energy transitions before.

You know, it's only 150 - 200 years ago we lit our streets with whale oil, and our primary source of energy was hunting down whales and shooting them in the head and then burning them. So we've made these transitions. We've created this shift from biomass to coal, and then into oil and gas, and we're in the middle of the next transition now which is to a renewable energy powered world.

Using solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal - all of those different components - and I think that's the shakedown that's happening now. Transitions are always a little bit uncomfortable because there are winners and there are losers, and the question is: when do you make a move yourself?

If you're doing incredibly well economically out of the old system, it's painful to transition to the new system. But not impossible! So I think we already are seeing economies around the world beginning to do that.

Advice to Norwegian industry and businesses in general

– I think it's about the creative imagination of what is possible. I think the biggest challenge we face for the future is when we simply think it's an extrapolation of the status quo. That is some extension of business-as-usual as we currently know it. And as a fact nature is all about dynamic system change. There's equilibrium, but equally, there are disruptive moments where things move at a large scale quite quickly.

I think the challenge for Norway is to have that courage and that creative imagination to imagine better and to think differently, and then to make it happen.

Watch the whole interview below:

Further reading

Accelerating tech to achieve the Global Goals (

Only planet - A flight-free adventure around the world by Ed Gillespie

Follow Ed on  Twitter - LinkedIn - Facebook - Instagram

About Karen Landmark (ph.d.), EU-advisor (mentioned in the video)