Right now across the United States and around the world, there is a growing movement against a group of people who are continually being marginalized and  censored even as their contribution to society becomes increasingly crucial.

I'm talking about anti-scientism.

From anti-vaccers to climate change deniers, people who purposely ignore scientifically sound findings or mistrust the scientific process are part of the growing problem that is anti-scientism in our society.

And with the recent release of the report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saying that we as a planet have to step up and make drastic changes to our entire way of living or risk catastrophe, the time is now to deal with it.

That report should have you seething with anger that we as a people have let the world get into such a state and it should make you want to spring into action immediately. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, author Andrew Winston, who specializes in helping corporations become more environmentally friendly, says the scale of the catastrophic effects of climate change will be determined by what businesses decide to do about it.

He points out what most companies are doing already to make themselves more environmentally friendly -- things like moving to more efficient machinery, incentivizing employees to make processes more efficient and using renewable energy -- and gives suggestions on further steps they can take.

Among the four additional steps businesses can take, Winston lists:

  1. Lobbying for aggressive pro-climate policies at all levels of government.

  2. Publicly and loudly supporting truth, science, and scientists.

  3. Using all available platforms to engage consumers.

  4. Rethinking investment decisions and heavily biasing them toward carbon reduction.

Among these, it's the second one I want to address with four ways to combat anti-scientism in your business.

1. Incorporate scientific thinking into your company culture.

You can help combat anti-scientism by encouraging scientific and critical thinking at work. As leaders, we can come up with a hypothesis, test that hypothesis, gather data and use that data to inform our future decisions. That may seem like standard business practice, but it's also scientific method and by using it, we are showing employees it works and can be trusted.

I always encourage critical thinking in my companies and that means allowing employees to question anything they see the company doing. All questions and comments are welcome and everyone is free to request evidence that something we're doing is working. Like in science, we develop and test theories and when we gather evidence that either prove or disprove them, we accept it.

2. Put anti-scientism on par with racism or sexism.

No self-respecting businessperson would allow their place of business to be infected with outright displays of racism or sexism or any other kind of intolerant behavior, so why would it be okay to tolerate similar displays of anti-scientism?

You can address it the same way you would address something like racism. An example would be saying in your employee code of conduct that your business embraces scientifically sound findings and practices just like it would say your company embraces diversity. Further, it could say your company will not tolerate behavior that undermines the integrity of scientifically sound findings just like it would not tolerate behavior that marginalizes people based on race, sex, gender, religion, etc. Just like these other forms of discrimination, anti-science sentiment should have no place in the workplace.

3. Be vocally critical about anti-science organizations and stick up for the rights of scientists.

Vocally criticize organizations that downplay the importance of science or that actively try to suppress or refute scientifically sound findings when it comes to making policy decisions for any level of government.

Also, lend support to scientific organizations in whatever way you deem appropriate. One organization that Winston singles out is Let Science Speak, which aims to give a voice to environmental scientists who are increasingly being suppressed and censored by the government and other groups.

4. Refrain from being part of the problem.

Anti-scientism isn't going to disappear on its own. It's going to take a vocal and concerted effort from not only scientists, but the people who support scientists and their important work. Don't be a part of the problem by staying silent.

The findings are in and if we don't act right now, our world as we know it is doomed. As humans, we have endured and saved the world from big problems before. I would like to believe that good will prevail and the populism that is driving the anti-scientism in our politics and daily lives will eventually be a thing of the past. As business leaders, what we can do is to be on the right side of history. We have a responsibility.

Published on: Nov 1, 2018
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