If we want to be free to do almost anything we please without any regrets or contradictions, we just need to avoid taking responsibility on certain key issues.
But if we want to open our eyes, evolve our values and commit ourselves to sustainable and responsible action towards society and the environment, we will need to have the courage to fail, to have contradictions and to be criticised for our mistakes or our imperfection with respect to the ultimate goal of what we want to improve.
In my case, after years of revising my values in order not to conform to what I thought was right because it was the norm in my environment, in my education or in my family or social tradition, I can say that I am proud to have evolved a lot and to have this “Dirty Conscience” caused by my imperfection in each of the things I have committed myself to in my speech, my leadership or my day-to-day actions. But I must also recognise that I have had (and I have now, and I will have in the future) many moments of discomfort and doubt in every issue that I have incorporated into my values and purpose.
I even openly recognise that, among my many contradictions, I have a few headline-grabbing inconsistencies, which I find it very difficult to avoid, but which I nevertheless try to avoid and am committed to the overall cause to which they respond. For example: I’m a vegetarian to avoid all the harm that comes with eating meat and fish (deforestation, pollution, emissions, animal exploitation, etc.), but I do eat some fish from time to time. I am mega committed to sustainable mobility and all measures to combat Climate Change, but because of my adventure and conference activities, I have to use the plane when there is no practical alternative to train or road transport. And I also work a lot for sustainable sports practices in natural environments, but I can’t avoid going through small trails on mountain bike, in areas that are not specially protected.
In addition, there is the highlighting and blaming effect of the external gaze on this “dirty conscience”, which goes beyond one’s own perception, and as the social beings that we are, causes us to feel remorse. Inquisitive looks that almost always come from those who are not at this level of commitment and hide behind the criticism of others to justify their frivolity and clear their own conscience.
It is hard to have your conscience activated on certain issues, knowing that you are not doing everything right. But not even the most purist in every area of sustainability can be perfect in their daily practice, unless they stay in a cave without doing anything or connecting to society. But not being perfect should not prevent us from revising our living habits and leadership dynamics to maximise our committed action towards a more sustainable world.
I apologise for my occasional inconsistencies, but I will continue to try to improve my performance wherever I can. I will inevitably always have a bit of inconsistency, but I will always improve my impact on the world with each new commitment I make. I have more inconsistencies now than I did ten or twenty years ago because I am much more aware and committed, but I am also a thousand times better than I was then in this respect, precisely because of this and because I have dared to live with this “dirty conscience”.
To all people, leaders or organisations that really want to take responsibility for their social and environmental impact, I would encourage them to embrace the change we need to build a better future, and to commit themselves to moving towards it with the courage not to always have a clear conscience in this process of personal and world transformation.