Deliver on your green ambition

How to drive the change needed to become sustainable

1 February 2020

Having the desire to make your organisation more climate friendly is easy. In fact, it is becoming mainstream. Transforming that ambition into true impact in your organisation is much harder – as you have probably already realised.

The climate implementation gap

The figure below is a recent poll from the participants of one of our sustainability seminars. It illustrates what many organisations express about the climate challenge:

Figure 1: What many organisations express about the climate challenge.

More than two thirds of the organisations in the sample see sustainability as a strategic priority. But less than one third feel that they are delivering on sustainability.

Climate initiatives have a history of being bottom-up, of prioritising high visibility over high impact and of being driven by engaged individuals rather than strategic targets. The call for structural change is met with structural barriers: Financial targets, higher priority must-win battles, silo thinking etc.

Make it strategic

Meeting the climate challenge requires clear strategic choices:

  • What is your aspiration? Will you be driving the climate transformation in your field or adapting to it?
  • What will be your positioning vis-à-vis your customers or users?
  • What new competencies do you need to develop – and which will you need to get access to through partners?
  • How do you measure success?

Every part of an organisation will make choices which will impact your climate performance. To deliver, make sure that these choices are linked to a joint ambition and that it is clear how they support each other.

Establish your baseline

To formulate a strategy and to measure success, you need a robust baseline. This is key to understanding the real challenges and opportunities, as well as your insurance against ineffective “flavour-of-the-day” initiatives.

When you establish your baseline, make sure to include all relevant scopes. The carbon footprint of your suppliers is not only their problem. It is very much within your sphere of influence and may represent as much risk and opportunity as emissions from your own site.

When establishing your baseline, consider:

  1. Which external requirements for sustainability reporting are you likely to meet – from customers, authorities, financial institutions or others?

  2. Which components are key to your climate strategy?

  3. Can you use standard tools for baselining and for measuring progress, or do you need to be more specific and develop your own metrics?

Drive the change

Only one third of change initiatives deliver the intended impact. The likelihood of success in your climate strategy may be even lower, as many of your leaders may think it is secondary to their core business. Use proven implementation principles to drive the change:

Co-create the change. Even though you want your climate strategy to be anchored in a shared ambition, do not fall into the trap of detailing solutions. Guide the organisation in creating relevant contributions to the implementation.

Lead the change. Real change requires real leadership. Get close to the change initiatives, ensure rapid decision-making and help eliminate barriers. Make sure that your managers are prepared to lead change in their area.

Communicate the change. Adapt dialogue and sense-making formats to different target groups.

Change behaviour

Humans are the common denominator of our initiatives. And information alone cannot and will not drive a substantial change in human behaviour.

The effect of CO2 pollution cannot immediately be observed, there is no one-to-one correlation between individual action and outcome, and the consequences are global and long term, not personal and real time. This poses a particular challenge when you are implementing your climate strategy: The immediacy, feedback and ownership, which will normally reinforce change, are not available to the individual if you do not provide them by design.

New insights from behavioural science can help you implement new behaviour more rapidly and with a greater chance of success. You can do this by:

  • Understanding the barriers: What causes the friction to change, and how can we make it easier to adopt new behaviour?
  • Making it easy: Design solutions so that it is easy for the individual to learn and form new habits.
  • Freeing up mental energy: Designing solutions for easy adoption will free up the mental energy needed for learning the new behaviour.

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