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Addressing Challenges in Organizational Climate Action, Not Change

Climate education and awareness play a vital role in igniting action to tackle the pressing issue of climate change. By providing individuals and organizations with relevant knowledge and a deeper understanding, we can begin to empower them to confidently take significant strides towards addressing this global challenge. However, despite an increasing awareness and understanding of the climate conundrum, many individuals who are well-informed and motivated still struggle to bridge the gap between their knowledge and taking meaningful action.

Statue of boy on ladder hanging planted pots on the wall

As part of our ongoing efforts to assess the progress of our certified Carbon Literate professionals, we sought to understand the challenges they face in putting their knowledge, and pledges, into action.

Through this examination, we found a majority of informed and inspired individuals finding themselves stalled at the ignition stage. Let’s take a look at the top 4 challenges facing them:


1. Lack of Management Support and Budgets

The #1 reason listed is lack of support and budget allocation from management. Even when professionals within organizations possess the knowledge and motivation to implement sustainable initiatives, they often face resistance or indifference from higher-ups. Sustainability initiatives viewed as “not our department” or simply “we don’t have the budget this year.”

To overcome this hurdle, it’s important for organizational management to recognize the long-term benefits of investing in climate action - which in other words - means investing in running a more efficient operation. One that uses as little energy as required, and uses what it has well. One that is mindful of its supply chain and diligent with its waste management practices. The world is already shifting in this direction, and beginning to reward his behavior. Organizations that failed to adapt, or invest, in digital infrastructure and ecommerce for the digital age cease to exist. Remember Kodak?

We need to recognize that “climate action” isn’t a separate budget or department - it’s part of facilities management, it’s part of marketing and communications, it’s part of training and HR, it’s part of operations planning and financial accounting. Systems need to be updated. Software needs to be installed. Policies and procedures need to be rewritten. Employees need to be trained. Approved vendor lists need to be created. These activities don’t fall solely under a “climate action” or “CSR” or “sustainability” budget.

The dawn of a green economy is upon us, and those who wish to stay relevant and competitive in the rapidly evolving business landscape need to adapt - to more efficient and responsible operations. Companies that fail to do so in the face of changing global priorities and consumer preferences can face severe consequences, including bankruptcy.

2. Limited Availability of Qualified Vendors

When organizations are ready to take action, they often struggle to identify reliable partners who can provide the necessary expertise and products. There are several issues that make this process difficult.

First of all, it can be challenging to determine if the claims made by suppliers are true. Many suppliers offer services with vague claims without explaining how they specifically help in reducing environmental pollution or in lowering emissions, or even which they help accomplish. This lack of clarity makes it challenging for organizations to assess the effectiveness of the services being offered.

A greenwashing trend among several major market players muddied the field for the rest of us. According to a survey of 2,000 Americans, 71% of the respondents believe that companies falsely claim to be sustainable. The survey by OnePoll on behalf of CG Roxane also found that 57% of the respondents think that the term "eco-friendly" has been used so frequently that it has lost its meaning, and 36% feel the same way about the term "sustainable.”

We need a clear method to communicate about the climate. We need to agree as to what certain words mean, and what they don’t. What they imply and what they convey. We’re navigating this changing world together, and we need to add transparency into the process as well as use precise language in our discussions and communications.

Secondly, there is no easy way to measure the true efficacy of a service until months or even years later. Organizations need to know exactly how much they have reduced emissions or kept waste out of landfills. It is essential for organizations to have a clear understanding of their progress and return on investment (ROI). And this is lacking in many cases, or if provided, unclear.

Lastly, when searching for suppliers, it can be difficult to find a qualified list of local vendors. Online searches yield results from big businesses and companies who have mastered the search engine optimization (SEO) game, making it difficult to find trustworthy and qualified suppliers. Plus, the implementation phase may bring unexpected obstacles and expenses, which can make progress more difficult, and strain already strapped budgets.

To address this, professionals would benefit from fostering the growth of a diverse and accessible marketplace that connects businesses with local, reputable and vetted suppliers. Including transparency into what their solutions entail - making it easier for organizations to find suitable partners. This will also help tackle the largest emissions pool for most organizations, Scope 3 emissions.

3. Too Many Promoting Offsets as a Solution

While offsetting carbon emissions is gaining popularity, it’s one of the least effective ways to tackle the issue of emissions. An offset is not a carbon reducing activity, it’s compensating for emissions you already put out. That’s not what we’re trying to do - we need to be reducing the amount of emissions in the first place. (Check out our bathtub example under point 7 of this post)

Furthermore, the offset market is currently a questionable business. I'm sure there are qualified genuine providers who not only plant trees but also consider the footprint of their entire operation. They are able to maintain a net-zero impact and provide additional offsets for the clients. After all, if the offsetting business is generating more emissions in its operations, what's the point?

To address challenges in organizational climate action, we should instead focus on practical actions that directly tackle the underlying causes of excess emissions. This includes investing in renewable energy, promoting healthy soil and regenerative farming practices, transitioning to sustainable production and consumption practices, improving waste management systems, and advocating for circular solutions.

Through examining these obstacles, adding them as discussion points in agendas, and having open conversations about them, we can begin to bridge the glaring gap between understanding climate change and taking meaningful action. It is through collective efforts and accessible solutions that we can make a lasting impact and create a sustainable green economy for generations to come.


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