‘Business leaders need to rediscover their inner joy’

Ahead of a new initiative to get business leaders into nature, Jonathon Porritt says we must all make time to reconnect with our sense of purpose

How do we respond to the urge to build a more fulfilling world, while nourishing and sustaining our energy? That is one of the questions behind a new retreat into nature for leaders in the sustainable business world. Reignite, which takes place on Dartmoor next weekend, promises to lure leaders away from their inboxes and back in touch with their ‘inner fire’.

The retreat is a collaboration between Forum for the Future and nature reconnection organisation Change in Nature. Participants will camp, cook around a fire and take part in discussions and exercises designed to encourage connection with nature. They will be urged to rediscover the sense of purpose that originally drew them to their work and to summon both intellectual and emotional intelligence in tackling global challenges. There is a growing need to do this, says Forum for the Future founder and director Jonathon Porritt.

“There are some fantastic people in the world of business who are heads-down, working incredibly hard on practical solutions for sustainability,” he says.

“Sometimes this means they get easily caught up in their working lives and are then less able to see the bigger picture. Business is often tailored toward logical and practical actions and people’s personal feelings about the state of the world tend to get pushed to the background – perhaps as a sort of defensive mechanism.”

Reignite will prompt participants, he says, to consider how to stay sensitive to the fragility of our planet without giving way to cynicism, compromise or despair. The retreat, which may turn into a regular event, is designed to be useful for those working in the corporate world, in civic society, NGOs or in academia.

Good business – of any kind – means we have to be able to respond to whatever we are feeling, explains Porritt. “This includes people’s pain, their passions, the thoughts they share with their family and friends. And the joy we find in the natural world is part of this.

“There is a part of human nature that is open to the great relationship of reciprocity with the living world. In the maelstrom of business – even ‘sustainable business’ – nature can become an abstract concept. People often lose that immediacy of contact with what surrounds us. But spending time in nature can be a source of great joy and sometimes transcendental meaning. It can connect us to those parts of ourselves that our working lives tend to shadow out.”

Spending time in nature can connect us to those parts of ourselves that our working lives tend to shadow out

So what would happen if leaders from the FTSE 100 decided to come along?

“They might worry a little less about their salaries and more about how to become a different kind of leader,” laughs Porritt.

“A lot of them are doing quite a good job, and embracing some solutions, certain aspects of climate change mitigation for example. But they are often not so tuned in to their impact on biodiversity and resources. The problem now is that, given the scale of our environmental impact, we’re nowhere near where we need to be.”

Whatever kind of work people have chosen, suggests Porritt, there is always a need to tune in to nature’s wisdom, an “energetic top-up” as he describes it.

“We need to give people the chance to rediscover their inner joy. Work without that is empty. It’s nothing.”

Reignite takes place from 16-18 September in the Dartmoor National Park. 

Main image: Chloe Revill