With many of our clients working in the resource sector, this week I attended the International Mining and Resource Conference (IMARC) to learn more about their work and how sustainability is increasingly on their agenda. On the first day of the conference, I took slow steps towards the venue as I saw a large group of angry protesters blocking the entrance and screaming a cacophony of bitter chants. I was a little shocked.

I recognise the concerns raised by the protestors. I strongly believe that climate change is a reality and that we need to act now to address this very strong threat to the world’s future. We need governments around the world to put policies in place, and several sectors – resource, agriculture, logistics, transport – to work towards strategic approaches to reduce our impact on the environment.

But the art of influencing people to change their behaviour or approach to an issue is not, and never will be, through being violent to them, calling them climate killers and yelling at them. There’s a place for protest. My heart swelled with pride when I saw the impact of Greta Thunberg on the climate debate. She is connecting with the next generation who will be able to vote within this decade and highlighted to governments that they are not doing enough. She is a force to reckon with and complements this peaceful protest with key meetings with UN officials, business and politicians, and working with key NGOs to drive the required dialogue to push for change.

I call it the stick / carrot model. Protest brings to the foray the issue, drives media attention and corrals other like-minded people to band together on a common cause. You need a carrot though. You need to have a dialogue with the resource sector to air grievances and establish activities that will drive the changes needed. This is being achieved in South Africa where there is a community conference – Alternate Mining Indaba – which runs alongside the mining conference – Mining Indaba – one of the world’s biggest mining conferences. At both conferences respective delegates meet, discuss, work together to achieve joint outcomes that are achievable.

Thanks to a combination of protest and dialogue we have Transparency International working to ensure both mining companies and governments are transparent and honest; the Voluntary Principles have been established which ensures the resource sector respects human rights and fundamental freedoms; my NGO Business for Development is ensuring communities near mine sites economically benefit from the activity and leave a post mine legacy which continues to economically empower communities. And, so much more.

So, don’t just protest. Certainly don’t block people from going to a conference. Be in the room and talk with them. You might be surprised, they actually are listening and want to change for all our futures.