Post-Carbon People

Unlocking the post-carbon potential of your staff

David GunnMay 2021

Net zero has quickly become an explicit part of company strategies everywhere. But the companies that thrive in the next decades will need more than green-leaning Chief Strategy Officers or growing sustainability departments. They will need the broad engagement of staff who are passionate about helping your business contribute to and thrive in a post-carbon world.  The question is, how do you unlock the enthusiasm and potential of your teams? 

We know from research that the majority of populations exhibit a mix of concern and inaction on climate: a background unease and a creeping sense of feeling “stuck” - not sure what to do, or unconvinced what you can do to make a difference. And this doesn’t just play out individually - but within the context of company teams and offices too. 

More often that not, well-meaning sustainability drives fail because they don’t connect to the broader sweep of organisational priorities. As a result they remain at the fringes of company consciousness. Good-will initiatives falling between the responsibilities of HR and marketing departments. Successful pushes to halt the use of single-use plastics that fail to go further. Or maybe just good intentions that are blocked by a lack of time, resource or confidence.

Whatever best describes your current situation, here’s 3 reasons why fostering a culture of post-carbon people will drive outsized benefits for your business.

People have impact
It bears repeating that individual actions on climate do matter and behaviour change amongst your staff will also drive network effects. The opinions of friends and family are one of the key drivers of individual action on climate. So even if they don’t see themselves as activists, your newly active staff will be shaping broader behaviour change in their homes, social networks and communities.  

People influence culture
Change is a constant within most organisations. For some, it might be wholesale cultural transformation. For others, a concerted embedding of broader ESG goals. Businesses are missing an opportunity if they don’t view staff action on climate as an integral part of these broader strategic efforts. Since concern around climate is an issue that often cuts across geographies, disciplines and seniority, it can build a sense of shared purpose and pride.

Less obviously, it also offers leaders an opportunity to pilot change strategies that can have broader benefit. Figuring out how to drive behaviour and cultural change within an organisation can be complex. Even on climate, it’s not just about finding a good cause, but the kind of narrative and approach that works with the grain of your organisation. Once you’ve done this with climate action, you’ll have insights, tools and momentum that you can apply to other ESG or change priorities within your organisation.  

People shape future business
The next decade won’t just be business-as-usual with lower carbon footprints. We’re stepping into uncharted terrain - a period of profound uncertainty that will see major shifts in stakeholder capitalism, new circular economies, new kinds of value creation, and a profound re-evaluation of consumer capitalism.

Staff who feel passionate about the shift to a post-carbon economy will help the organisations take better decisions each day. Committed to company policies but also proactive in improving them, identifying issues before they become PR nightmares, sensing new opportunities for innovation and helping the organisation thrive in the world to come.

Coming next
As Race to Zero picks up, more companies are getting serious about net zero commitments. Such commitments are vital for reasons too obvious to rehearse, but for ambitious businesses it’s worth seeing such commitments as part of a broader set of opportunities to embrace a low-carbon future. This article is the first in a series dedicated to catching up to a post-carbon world. Next up: Something More Near and Shawn Peterson talk Post-Carbon Experiences.    

Interested in the benefits of Post-Carbon People? Contact us to find out how we can help.

David Gunn

David Gunn

Participation specialist. Major projects for Tate, World Health Organisation, Museum of London and Franco Manca. Co-founder of Something More Near.

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