Understanding Ourselves in Times of Climate Change


Roland Mees
University of Groningen


Understanding Ourselves in Times of Climate Change

When it comes to fighting climate change, any strategy to reach "net zero" by 2050 is credible only if it includes a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Although the affluent countries have been aware of the climate challenge since 1992, they have waited too long to take sustainable action.

Our failure as people in the affluent countries to act sustainably is incompatible with how we understand ourselves as we shape visionary companies by relentlessly improving business processes, product quality and customer experience. Visionary companies deliver the best performance to their stakeholders. Why are we able to do all this, but ineffective in taking climate action?

As I see it, we apply different moral standards to future generations than we do to current generations. This hinders us from gaining the virtue of moral integrity. Only when we evaluate our roles as individuals, professionals in organisations, and members of humanity as against an integral set of normative standards can we be regarded as persons of integrity.

Despite these concerns, there are institutions that can overcome the motivational weaknesses of people in the affluent countries to take sustainable action and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. For example, we must cherish the institutions that make up our constitutional democracies. We should support the EU Fit-for-55 ambition, and we should welcome the Dutch Civil Code, which offers opportunities to compel individuals and companies to take climate action.

Design and layout: LINE UP boek en media bv | Riëtte van Zwol, Mirjam Kroondijk
Cover photo: Canva/Tiemen Folkers
Author photo: ING

Published by University of Groningen Press
Broerstraat 4
9712 CP Groningen


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Author Biography

Roland Mees, University of Groningen

Roland Mees is filosoof en director Sustainable Finance bij ING Wholesale Banking.
Mees heeft de lening uitgevonden, waarbij de rentemarge is gekoppeld aan de duurzaamheidsprestatie van de klant (“Sustainability-Linked Loan”). Mees heeft ruim 30 jaar ervaring opgedaan in de bancaire sector, niet alleen bij ING, maar ook bij ABN Amro en Triodos Bank.
Roland Mees studeerde wiskunde in Utrecht en bedrijfskunde in Rotterdam. Hij promoveerde in 2017 aan het Ethiek Instituut van de Universiteit Utrecht op de vraag waarom het zo moeilijk is om je te motiveren om duurzaam te handelen. In 2019 verscheen zijn boek Sustainable Action and Motivation, Pathways for Individuals, Institutions and Humanity bij Routledge. Naast zijn baan bij ING is hij hoogleraar Praktijk van Bedrijfsethiek aan de faculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde.

Cover Inaugural lecture Roland Mees



June 26, 2023


Oratie, Inaugural Lecture, Inaugurele rede, Roland Mees, University of Groningen, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde, Faculty of Economics and Business