Influencing senior leaders to take bold action

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Written by Kimberley Hare on 16 March 2020

Reading time: 4 minutes

There is mounting pressure on organisations to prove they are acting sustainably. Leadership teams must take proactive and bold action to stem climate change in a real and urgent way.

There are very few organisations (if any) that can’t improve their green strategies. This is your chance to take a strategic lead by lobbying the board to change. 

This can range from questioning and challenging some fundamentals – like the business you are in, and how your organisation does what it does, including the green credentials of your supply chain. Right through to reviewing how your business or organisation uses its assets. Who does your organisation bank with, for example?

With the declaration of a climate emergency in the UK during 2019, and heightened awareness around ecological devastation, many people have been making changes in their daily lives to try to minimise their carbon footprint.

While eating less meat, reducing air travel and cutting down on buying new clothes are simple and clear choices, many people are not aware of the carbon impact of more hidden services – such as their pension or bank account.

Lobbying organisation BankTrack reports that the top UK banks have poured nearly £150bn into financing fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2016, including £45bn for the expansion of fossil fuels – £13bn of which went into fracking alone.

Change from the sector is required, which is especially urgent if we are to meet the Government’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Has your organisation switched to a green energy provider? If not, why not?

Environmental group Friends of the Earth supports the idea that the financial sector has to adapt. “Too many UK banks are failing to take the climate emergency seriously,” says Craig Bennett, the organisation's chief executive.

“How can they talk about wanting to serve society while investing in planet-wrecking projects such as fossil fuel extraction? Funding the destruction of our planet is certainly not in the best interest of customers.”

Your first step might be to ensure that you understand what the organisation’s strategy is on environmental issues and understand how employees and potential recruits will view this strategy.

What does your company say about its environmental strategy and how does it communicate it to employees? Is it buried in an employee handbook, unchallenged or unrevised?

If the strategy is fit for purpose, it is also vital to consider whether the organisation’s values and culture support your stance on the environment and, if they don’t, create a plan to change them.

It is also vital to involve your unions or staff representatives at an early stage to get feedback and input on strategy and plans. After all, they are in a great position to help when it comes to implementation.

Similarly, consider the value of conducting a snapshot employee survey about where your people are with this issue, and what support they would appreciate.

What are your plans regarding energy, water, waste and recycling, grey water, heating, rainwater capture and reuse, air-conditioning?

Has your organisation switched to a green energy provider? If not, why not? Who takes your waste away, and are they compliant with zero carbon? Are they producing bio-gas from your waste, for example?

Think about buildings – solar panels, solar glass, small wind turbines. LED lighting everywhere – which cuts total energy costs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

If your company feeds staff while they are at work, there is a lot that can be done. Consider getting rid of snack and drink machines selling sugary nonsense. 

Can you change what your canteen offers and make this more plant-based? If you are providing meat, offer less of this as a proportion of the whole, and make the meat higher quality and higher welfare. 

 



 

Can you install a roof garden that grows food? Or what about planting fruit and nut trees to replace what might be huge areas of ugly paving around your buildings?

Do you have ‘dead’ land that could be rewilded, making attractive green space areas for staff and improving the environment for pollinators and insects?

Introduce a policy that encourages staff to bring their own reusable drinking containers.

When it comes to transport, explore switching all company cars to EVs, and including EV chargers in your company car parks. Can you create incentives for staff to cycle or take an electric bus to work? 

Can you encourage and facilitate car-sharing schemes? If you have an account with a taxi company, make sure this uses EVs.

Where people can work effectively from home, encourage that; and have more virtual meetings. 

There’s a lot to do for sure! But the organisations who take a proactive stance to all this will be in a much better position to thrive as this crisis unfolds.

 

About the author

Kimberley Hare is founder and managing director of The Heart of Thriving

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