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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking

ADDRESSING THE CLIMATE CRISIS: IF NOT US THEN WHO?

2021-05-11 10:02

Cathryn Barnard

Blog, BUSINESS RESILIENCE, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, FUTURE OF WORK CONSULTING, BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION, CLIMATE CRISIS,

ADDRESSING THE CLIMATE CRISIS: IF NOT US THEN WHO?

Employers who aren’t seen as ‘doing the right thing’ when it comes to addressing the climate crisis will increasingly struggle to access the skills they need...

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April marked three days of climate action under the banner of Earth Day 2021. 

 

As a movement, Earth Day has been around for more than fifty years. Fifty years of educating and activating the environmental movement on a global scale. Fifty years – that’s four times longer than the expected average lifespan of an S&P 500 business in the 2020s. 

 

I’ve been interested in climate activism for more than two decades now and have always done what I can to consciously limit my personal carbon footprint. In my final years spent as a head-hunter, I proactively chose to work with clients using technology to reduce carbon emissions. I have huge concerns about the implications of a warming planet.

 

This year’s Earth Day felt different, however. 

 

When we researched the climate change chapter of our Foresight Focus report, what we discovered was bleak. 

 

Remember the devastating images of the Australian bush fires? 

 

According to estimates, more than 18 million hectares of land burned in the bushfire season of 2019-2020. Nearly 6,000 buildings were destroyed, including 2,800 homes, and an estimated death toll of 1 billion wild animals is now thought to be conservative. 

 

Remember the horrific US wildfires last summer? 

 

In October 2020, the world’s first gigafire was recorded – that’s a wildfire that concurrently burns across more than 1 million acres. Insane.

 

You don’t need to look far to find heart-breaking evidence of the damage humankind is wreaking on the planet. You just need to choose to pay attention. 

 

In the past month alone, the Seaspiracy documentary on Netflix has gone viral, highlighting the catastrophic damage commercial fishing is doing to marine ecosystems. Elsewhere, Ade Adepitan’s BBC documentary series has revealed the life-changing impact of the climate crisis around the globe.

 

Not only is it no longer possible to deny climate change, but bluntly, it’s becoming wilful blindness to ignore it.

 

And for business, choosing to ignore the environmental crisis is now an issue upon which employees will vote with their feet. Fresh research from IBM shows nearly 70% will consider the organisation’s environmental position before applying for or accepting a new role. The pandemic has finally woken us up.

 

Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer revealed business to be the only trusted institution. Since COVID-19 emerged, business has been perceived as more trusted, ethical and competent than government. 

 

People (and that’s both consumers and workers) increasingly expect business to step up and take positive action to address the social and environmental challenges of our times. As Edelman has documented, employers are now a ‘mainstay of trust’. 

 

Those employers who aren’t perceived as ‘doing the right thing’ when it comes to addressing the climate crisis will increasingly struggle to access the skills they need to help them navigate increasingly complex markets.

 

From here on in, every single individual with a conscience and a position of influence in business has a key part to play. We can no longer wait for governments to pull together and take collective action in the fight against climate change. It seems there will always be something getting in their way. 

 

We must, as an act of survival, do whatever we can to reduce organisational carbon footprints and help drive business towards more sustainable operating principles. It’s our moral imperative. 

 

Ultimately this requires a top-to-bottom rethink of organisational values. It won’t be for the faint-hearted.

 

Fortunately, however, there are people out there already considering how to tackle these shifts. Our book of the month this month is Sustainable Marketing by Michelle Carvill, Gemma Butler and Geraint Evans. Marketing has a pivotal role to play in the transformation towards more sustainable business – you can learn more and sign up to the Sustainable Marketing Manifesto here

 

For ourselves, we’re constantly seeking to improve our sustainable credentials, both as a business, and as individuals. Internally, we’re building a repository of resources to help us continuously up our game, and it’s becoming something of a competition to chivvy one another along to reduce our impact on the planet.

 

Let’s see COVID-19 as an inflection point – a point where we start to do things differently, and where we step up to our roles as leaders of responsible business. We have a duty to future generations to fully invest in building a better, less destructive and more balanced society. 

 

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Looking to dive deeper into some of the areas covered in this blog post? Check out our Navigating Talent RiskRecruitment and Retention and Foresight Focus reports and products.

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