On Monday, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dropped a landmark report on the desks of every concerned environmentalist. It concluded that we have just 12 years to limit global temperature increase to 1.5C. The alternative is worldwide catastrophe.
If we miss that target and temperatures increase by 2C, 99% of coral reefs could be gone. Food scarcity and climate refugees would skyrocket. Low-lying countries could face devastation.
So is there any room for positivity? Yes. In fact, there’s no room for pessimism.
The situation is what it is. We can’t go back in time and change the Industrial Revolution, but we can change what we do from here on out. It’s time for organisations and individuals to start taking responsibility in the battle we’re facing.
That starts with you and me.
It’s easy to be downbeat about the state of things. Some might argue it’s actually realism rather than pessimism. But regardless of what is achievable, we need to take a positive mindset into the forthcoming challenges.
Your brand — no matter how big or small — has a circle of influence. Your stakeholders pay attention to what you do, so setting a positive example is an important first step.
If your company guzzles oil and shows no respect for its impact on the world, that message becomes normalised. We’ve seen problematic politicians and industry moguls do that for decades. Now is the time to be different.
Whether you employ one person or have the workforce akin to a small nation, you can make a difference. Here are three immediate changes that will get you off to a good start:
They’re the biggest reason we’re in this mess, so it’s time to say ‘No more’. You can — and should — choose a renewable energy supplier for your company buildings.
And if you’ve still got areas where you can’t avoid carbon emissions, use an online carbon offsetting system. Simply calculate your level of emissions and pay a fee — it’s that easy. The money then goes to sustainable projects all around the world.
It’s not a case of paying off your carbon creditors and forgetting about it — carbon offsetting should be the standard practice for every company.
Global change starts on your doorstep. Engaging a small community — whether that’s in your local area or the people within your industry — can be a springboard to wider change.
Right now — and I mean literally right now — think about what sustainable causes mean the most to you. It could be anything from cleaning up our oceans to gender equality.
Next, do a quick Google search for related projects in your area. Send off an email to the person in charge and tell them you want your company to help in whatever way possible.
That could mean donating time, money, resources or even contacts to help the project grow.
One person won’t change the world without help from others. Sit down with your employees — again, no matter how many there are — and talk to them about the IPCC report.
Don’t bore them to tears with policy details, but let them know that you’re alarmed by this, and you want to make a difference. Show that you’re serious about putting sustainable practices in place.
We’d suggest a formal meeting, but chatting to individuals more casually can work too. Tell them that things are going to change and you want their help to mould the future of the company.
Getting your staff on board with sustainability will make it more likely that they stay connected with your efforts.
We spoke briefly about local sustainability, and we can’t stress its importance enough. It means having more hands on deck when physical labour is needed and — importantly — more voices to spread the word.
Case studies are always helpful when committing to a big change. Take a look at the positive impact brands like TRIBE and Finisterre have had on the people around them. Both sell products with a purpose, and it’s clear that it’s not a marketing afterthought.
Once you’ve fully committed to sustainability, it will become evident in your marketing efforts. Haven’t got anything significant to post about on social media? You’re not doing enough.
Engaging your local community starts with realising what those in the area care about. If you’re on the coast, a beach cleanup is a great way to meet like-minded people. If you’re in a big city, clean air and community gardening projects are probably high on the agenda.
As we said above, get in touch with those who are already making a difference and move from there. Be humble, listen to the experts and then offer a contribution. It’s an approach every world leader could benefit from.
Note that nowhere in this article have we mentioned any benefits to your business. That’s not the motivation here.
We’re clear that doing better for the environment is better for business, but that’s for another day.
The world is going to face unseen destruction if we’re not serious about change. There are tangible benefits to being a sustainable company — we’ve written about them here — but forgive us if this one is a little less about the bottom line.
The IPCC report was a wakeup call that many of us needed. It’s no longer good enough to do less bad. Now is the time to start doing good. The world needs positive influences — you’re well-placed to be one of them.
Rhys is Conscious Creatives' resident writer and photographer. His work has been published in various online publications, and he was recently chosen to update a bestselling book on SEO. He continues to seek new and interesting angles for his photography work, shooting his local streets on 35mm film.
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