“Our planet requires something different from us than bickering”

Tenth edition Henk van Luijk lecture online

May 28 2021

“Let’s embrace polarization. From the perspective of polarization, we can look at conflicting interests, map and connect them. That is the way to achieve innovation.” This is the appeal chairman MVO Netherlands, Maria van der Heijden, made during her introduction at the tenth Henk van Luijk lecture on May 27. The theme of this edition: Polarization surrounding sustainability. André Nijhof, Professor of Sustainability at Nyenrode Business University, led the meeting.

During the online meeting, Naomi Ellemers, Professor of Social and Organization Psychology at Utrecht University, Maria van der Heijden, chairman MVO Netherlands, and Ingrid Thijssen, chairman VNO-NCW, shared their vision on the theme. Three quarters of the participants recognize the polarization in sustainability, according to the survey. 

From intention to implementation

Ellemers explains that people mainly judge organizations on moral issues. “People want authenticity and responsible entrepreneurship. They are concerned that that won’t be the case when sustainability goals have been set. But failure isn’t bad as long as people are honest about it. Not being honest about failing is moral failure, which is way worse.” When we look beyond the intention regarding acting sustainable, Ellemers says there are four phases: intention, goal, means and implementation. “Less than half is what remains in the final phase.”

Action perspective

Ingrid Thijssen wondered how we can translate excitement and involvement of the young generations into the realization of goals. “It all begins with an inspiring story to get the young generation involved. Everyone needs to gain action perspective. What can I do? How can I do that? Who is helping me? This applies to both civilians and business owners.” According to Thijssen pilots and pioneering are bygones. “It is NOW that we have to come up with good solutions and roll these out on a big scale.” Her appeal to the new cabinet: “Don’t hesitate, but free up budget and start acting!”

During the round table meeting about sustainability polarization, Thijssen pointed out that we shouldn’t question one another’s intentions since this works counterproductive on working together. Ellemers agreed: “If you question others, you really cause damage instead of that you support good initiatives such as entrepreneurship.”

Courage and guts

Van der Heijden wishes for everyone to have the courage and the guts to take the necessary steps from their own role. And the patience to look at polarization as something positive. Thijssen concluded with the words: “If we want to meet climate goals, there needs to be effective cooperation between companies, governments and partners. Our planet requires something different from us than bickering”.

Henk van Luijk was the first Professor of Business Ethics at Nyenrode Business University and the first in Europe. “He was a pioneer”, says André Nijhof. He handed flowers to Marthe van Nes, the widow of Henk van Luijk. She has been present at every edition of this lecture. This meeting gave her hope for the future, which would have suited Henk as well. “He was an optimistic human being”.

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