Rotary – Leading in the One Planet World


We have reached an important date when we have consumed in just over 7 months what the Earth can only replenish in the full year. Where our Children are worse off than we were at their age. The time has come to think what Rotary must become to face and help deal with these realities. I wrote this in 2009.

Rotary in Transition

 As we enter the second decade of the third Millennium it is clear that Rotary International faces, like the rest of humanity a period of transition, of opportunities and threats.

A future that can be seen as a challenging adventure or an impossible challenge; the choice is ours.

This piece is adapted from a longer one on leadership that can be viewed and downloaded from the link at the end.

 The One Planet World

 It is clear that the pressure we are putting the Earth under is leading to resource shortages, both in absolute terms and relative distribution. For many of us, our experiment in living a multiple planet existence on the only planet we have is coming to a close.

This has far reaching consequences for how we will ‘manage for a One Planet World’ and the leadership skills Rotarians will need.

Quality of Life, the ‘BigQ’

At the centre of our adventurous challenge is a concept we have lost sight of, although it lies at the centre of the Rotary four way test

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

This is the Quality of our efforts and our relationships, the Quality of our lives.

In the One Planet World we can no longer accept, as Rotarians, the narrow view of Quality in our personal and professional lives and recognise that because a product or service satisfies, nay delights the customer, that it possesses ‘quality’ –  if it leads to a ‘loss to society’ through economic, social and environmental failures.

 A Mind Model

 There is a One Planet Equation Mind Model (OPE) 1 = P x C x RI, that inevitably draws us its consequence; the First Law of Sustainability

In a resource constrained environment, goods and services can only grow at the rate at which their resource intensity can be reduced beyond balancing the One Planet Equation’.

From this vantage point Rotarians can look dispassionately at the One Planet World and say what this means for us as suppliers and customers of its products and services.

Resource Intensity

 We have but One World and the only way we can balance the OPE in a resource constrained environment is if the

  • Resource Intensity, (RI) is never more than 1/PC.

This is the key to future strategic Rotary and personal leadership. We must

  • Seek to eliminate the cannots
  • Base our Rotary and business model on the musts.
  • Work to continually reduce the Resource Intensity of the products and services we create, use and dispose of. 

We can say that in the One Planet World

  • Energy, water and other resources will be constrained
  • Human resources will be plentiful

And from these come the ‘we cannots’

  • Create growth faster than we can reduce Resource Intensity (RI)
  • Waste or ineffectively invest resources
  • Freely transport resources or goods
  • Keep using our system of creation, use and then disposal to ‘the tip’
  • Keep creating products and services that feed ‘Affluenza’
  • Invest in inflexible technology, infrastructure and buildings
  • Design for obsolescence
  • Use Energy and water  ineffectively

And the ‘we musts’

  • Evolve our Democratic and Rotary processes to enable process learning and continual improvement
  • Leave behind the reductionist, compliance approach to organizational management
  • Think local
  • Educate for Resource Intensity minimization
  • Continually reduce the Resource Intensity of non-essential processes to zero (eliminate them)
  • Ethically and with consideration, replace energy with people (Ingenuity and creativity) in processes. These are your customers!
  • Replace products with services
  • Design for maintainability
  • Design for reliability
  • Work to continually reduce the losses in the essential processes remaining (improve quality).

Only in this way can we perceive how Rotary, and we as Rotarians are to lead in the One Planet World

 Rotary in the 3rd Millennium

 It is increasingly being recognised that we are coasting to the top of many resource curves, and are at or near the reality of the the Earth deciding our futures.

In leading for the future, Rotary International will have to cope with this reality.

Fortunately Rotarians are creative and enterprising and by looking at our future as the adventurous challenge it is, Rotary can be in the vanguard of creating the One Planet World.

Future Shock

We are suffering from what Alvin Toffler called ‘Future Shock’.

This being a state of confusion that arises when the past offers little guidance to dealing with the present and the future and we are in such a time, where the past offers few signposts – when increasing demand for goods and services meets declining resources to create them.

As was ever the case Rotary must be in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, right.

Anticipating and influencing the needs and actions of society will make the difference between success and failure.

As the management Guru Peter Drucker said “what the customer sees, thinks, believes and wants at any time determines if value is being created”

Instantaneous Adaptability

Leadership in the One Planet World requires us to be almost instantaneously adaptable as a service organisation and as individuals, with the vision and skills to create the same adaptability within the organizations we serve.

The resources available to us will be reducing over time and we must marshal them to continually increase the supply of goods and services that meet the essential emotional and spiritual needs of our customers.

Tomorrow’s Rotarians must have the skills and ability to liberate the creativity and ingenuity in their people and other stakeholders that will enable and drive change.

Learning and Teaching

 In the One Planet World we must learn what our stakeholders are uniquely able to teach us if we are make maximum use of the resources available to us.

This learning must be instantaneously part of a ‘Virtuous Circle’ of improvement to ensure continual process learning and Resource Intensity reduction.

Rotarians in leading for ‘Future Advantage’ will

  • Remember Edward Deming’s adage that ‘Survival is not Compulsory’ for an Rotary Club, Rotary, or the human race.
  • Understand that time is not on our side.
  • See the future as a challenging adventure and not an impossible challenge.

Rotary – Future Advantage

 This article is predicated on four tenets

  • That we are addicted to the hugely ineffective use of energy and other resources
  • That most current discourse is centred on the ’symptoms’ our addiction causes – climate change, environmental, social and economic failures
  • That human beings are, and have been, creative, ingenious and enterprising since the dawn of our species.
  • That our’ future is ‘our’ problem – that the Earth will most probably manage very well without us.

The OPE makes clear the effect our addiction is having and makes explicit the action needed to create the One Planet World – to continually reduce the resource intensity of all the products and services we consume.

This is the real challenge we face if we are to create an economic future that is more equitable, whilst eliminating the risks of environmental and social failures in its creation.

Rotary International as an organization has always wanted and worked so that communities and societies can continually improve the ‘quality of their lives’, and this can only be achieved, logically, by continually improving the ‘quality’ of the products and services we create as Rotarians and consume over their life-cycle.

We must ‘Do the Right Thing’ – be effective in our use of resources and ‘Do it Right Every Time’ – be efficient in our use of those resources. This is a Journey, not a destination and has at its core the need for an effort of ‘quality improvement’ driven by human creativity that the world has not yet experienced.

We face many challenges to achieving this, not least, the economic, environmental and social failures we are now experiencing and the natural response to ‘fight the last war with obsolete weapon’s’; but we have no option but to enter the future and we must envision what the best possible future can be and then continue to work to enable it.

Derek Deighton



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s