10 actions business professionals can take to address the climate crisis
What can I do to help address climate change? That is the question I am constantly asked after sharing information on the crisis the world is facing. So, I’m doing what I can do, and that is sharing ideas, which hopefully can contribute to a collective surge of change.
But based on my experience and business background, the best contribution I can make is in mobilizing business and the professionals who work for the world’s largest companies. I think we are the best hope our planet has.
I encourage you to read and invest time in acquiring knowledge about the climate crisis. All angles. As an example, you can read this article if you want to understand more about CO2 emissions. It’s at a critical point now and most people do not understand it…
Where we are as a planet
In early 2019, the UN released a report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The warning is stark.
The ecosystems on which all life on planet earth depends – including human life – is deteriorating at an unprecedented pace. If it continues, IPBES chair Robert Watson said: “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
A million species of plants and animals are threatened by extinction. Three-quarters of the planet’s land and about two-thirds of the oceans have been significantly altered. It’s now likely there will be grave consequences for people around the world.
Plastic has even been found at the deepest depths of the oceans, following an extraordinary expedition, led by Victor Vescovo. They descended nearly 11km to the deepest place in the ocean - the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench (read that story, it’s amazing) and even there, they found human pollution. Plastic has also been found on the highest mountains on earth.
And then we had UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said: the World is 'not on track' to meet the Paris climate accord objectives and that “the political will to fight climate change seems to be fading at the same time as things are getting worse for those feeling the effects.”
Most recently, the IPCC released a Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and you can click here for all reports released by the IPCC.
If you are paying attention to this crisis, despair is mounting. Climate anxiety is a real thing, and while I’ve sunk into that anxiety a few times this year, I continue to come out fighting.
For me, the climate crisis we all face is the only story that matters right now. If we don’t act…
Read the reports, I mean it, you NEED to read the reports. I am honestly amazed at how many people are not giving this even the smallest amount of attention. We cannot ignore this. There is no time! I know it’s frightening. But we can not put our heads in the sand anymore.
Taking action, wherever we can
But what can we do? We must impact every person in our lives by sharing knowledge to educate them, and then we must inspire them to act, because we all need to change behaviours.
If we can’t rely on the politicians to do what is needed - which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly conducive to re-election, right? Based on the old political paradigm I don’t think it is. But what we’re fighting for is not conducive to democracy anyway. There is too much short-term pain that we need to suffer, and no politician wants to ‘own’ that.
Not to mention, I believe our democracies have become fundamentally corrupted by big business interests (aka the donors) who are getting priority above all else. As Tim Winton says in this article: Our leaders are ignoring global warming to the point of criminal negligence. It's unforgivable.
So, we have no choice but to increase the pressure from we the people to make it impossible for the politicians, media, business - and anyone else profiting from business as usual - to ignore.
Our voice is powerful. We are powerful. Believe it and let’s create a better world. It will be a painful change, but it will be worth it out the other side.
The power of business professionals
And as business professionals, we can make an impact with the individual choices we make, the wider influence we can share with colleagues and our communities, as well as being a force within the companies we work for to wake the leadership up to take action. We can be the change. In fact, it’s the only way to get it moving as quickly as it needs to move.
But don’t expect it to be easy. A recent report from Amazon showed the employees wanted change, but the shareholders voted it down - 8,000 Amazon employees asked the company to do more on climate change. Shareholders just said no. Keep fighting the good fight employees. One day the shareholders will realize that there will be no more profits for anyone if we don’t sort this out!
To inspire you, to start conversations, to share with colleagues, or as content you can print and stick to the wall in your office, here are 10 ideas to get started. Don’t forget to tell me what else you would add to this list? Let’s keep building and driving the world forward, to ensure a better future for all. Let’s share the message!
Let’s drive the conversation and turn the earth ship around – for ourselves, our children, and all living beings on planet earth.
So here are 10 actions business professionals can take to address the climate crisis
Green audit your business
A great opportunity we all have, whether we work for a global MNC or we’re a solopreneur, is take a good hard look inside our businesses and work out where we can make significant changes that matter. For bigger businesses, we can recruit fellow green ambassadors, including executive sponsors, and take the movement global within the companies we work for. With the release of The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report this week, we have no time to lose! Headlines like: “Nature is in worst shape in human history, UN Report” must be a wakeup call for all. Let’s act.
- Start small. Look at your office supplies. What can go? What can change? Recycled paper or paperless office, recycled toilet paper wrapped in paper Vs plastic, get rid of cheap pens, all plastic – bags, cups, straws, etc… - all waste gone
- In your office kitchen or company restaurant, as well as drink/food machines – remove all plastic, no plastic water bottles, no plastic plates and cutlery, and how’s your recycling? Is it ending up in landfill? Know where it goes. Also can you go meat-less?
- Your office cleaning company – audit them and help them. Are they using products good for the environment? Or are you cutting too many corners forcing them to go cheap?
Look in every corner of your business
And the bigger things.
- Assess your company giveaways. What is the landfill potential? If it’s cheap and unsustainable, stop giving it out. No plastic bags. Sustainable events. No free crap!
- Product packaging is a BIG one. When I buy new headphones, at least 98% is packaging – most of it plastic. Most consumer products have excess packaging. It’s not beautiful if it’s killing our environment. Let’s get the design experience (#DX) people focused on sustainability and stop producing massive packaging that is instantly thrown away! Let’s focus on #MX
- Up2Degrees – check out the work and let’s reduce our company's energy footprint. Start in the office - aircon or heating, if it’s too hot or too cold, it’s too much CO2
- Make it collaborative. Start conversations in your business about what you can do to reduce energy output and excess. Hold brownbag lunches, brainstorm ideas. Get everyone bought in to making big changes. We need everyone on board to win
- Share information about the environment and the steps we can all take. Educate, educate, educate. Make sustainability the lifeblood of your business. Lead the way so your competition follows
- Pay for the eco warriors in your community to speak at company meetings and help educate your workforce. Education is critical
- Contribute financially, as a business, to those fighting to save the planet! Sponsor those you believe in and let’s turn this crisis around. Go deep, go hard, we need everyone fighting
- Be a whistle-blower if no one listens
Read this article on biodiversity loss and then read the report.
Right now, we all have a job to turn around decades of waste and wasteful mindsets. Decades where all of us – especially in the developed world – accepted using products once then we threw it away, often after seconds of use. Waste, that on average, will last for 400 years. That’s shocking! We have manufactured more plastic in the last decade than in the whole of the previous century. And it’s not looking good, with global waste expected to double by 2050!! We must stop and clean it up – the oceans too.
I'd love to see us declare a global stop-work-month to clean up the horrendous mess we’ve all created. We are now confronting decades of our own thoughtlessness, along with the corporations that kept going, no matter what! They could see the impact and didn’t change. Are profits really more important? Coca-Cola admitted to using three million tonnes of plastic/year - the equivalent of 15,000 Blue Whales! Let that sink in…
As individuals, we must change our habits and communicate with our communities to help them understand we all have a role to play in turning this polluted world around. We can’t let global waste double – and Asia, we’re on the front line here.
- Let’s stop buying/using plastic and yes, it’s hard, but we must take these steps. Stopping Single Use plastic is critical – all plastic bottles, bags, wrappings, etc… If it’s an instant throw-away, don’t buy it. And please, can we stop the madness of the plastic water bottle industry? It continues to grow… WHY! Get a water bottle/bag. Take it with us everywhere
- Shop at Farmers Markets and Food in the Nude stores if we can
- Make our own soaps/shampoos or shampoo bars, use vinegar to clean our homes (which works!)
- Buy products in bulk and refill the bottles we already have
- Re-use everything we can and be mindful in how we discard rubbish
- Let’s ALL work hard to reduce our personal waste – because THERE IS NO AWAY
- Support businesses committed to sustainability
- And finally, everything we buy, we must consider it’s impact. We must start thinking
For business, governments and countries, let’s…
- Vote for leaders who are committed to Climate Change. We have no time to be distracted by deniers. We are in serious trouble and we need real political will. This is not an easy fight
- Support/invest in sustainable businesses showing a deep commitment to delivering an excellent Mother Earth experience #MX – products, packaging, environmental impact, commitment to communities they operate in, etc…
- Lobby Governments to clean up their act and commit to cleaning up the environment – i.e. significantly improving recycling and responsibility for waste Vs shipping it elsewhere
- Asian countries stop taking the world’s rubbish. Lobby your governments/businesses to SAY NO! When you take it, you take responsibility away from the people producing it, AND you are poisoning/killing your own people. Citizens of Asia, demand it stops. You suffer the consequences
- Shame brands who continue to do the wrong thing – such as useless giveaways immediately destined for landfills, Amazon’s excessive packaging, etc… #nameandshame
- Lobby your supermarkets to change and change now – refillable stations for all products, food in the nude, and more
Let’s embrace People Power, it starts with our wallets
- The Top 10 plastic polluters in the world are: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Inc. and Colgate-Palmolive
- I don’t subscribe to blame culture, because we purchased their products, so we also contributed, but with their massive budgets/profits, they can help solve this challenge, taking on the enormous job to get us out of this mess, by owning global education on climate change
- Put your hand up if you would support all 10 of these companies (+ the next 90) dedicating 100 per cent of their advertising budget to climate change education, across all issues relevant to the discussion? To do it brilliantly, they must partner with AND fund climate activists already doing so much good, because this would help our heroes get their message everywhere, on a much bigger scale, because it’s always needed that! They need support for their work. We do too
- Naturally, they can still advertise their products, why not? However, we must demand all packaging is sustainable within 12 months!
- Think of the power this would have and it would make an impact, because they can reach every corner of the globe. This is what we need. To reach everywhere, to change mindsets, raise awareness, and tackle issues relevant at the global and local level. This would be huge, not to mention, we would love them again!
Some articles to help understand the problem and identify the companies we need to challenge to get things changing and fast. Notice the language in the industry trade press… NO IDEA!! No more excuses. Are you in business or are WE ALL out of business?
- The stark truth about how long your plastic footprint will last on the planet – The Telegraph UK
- Top 10 Leading Packaging Companies in the World for 2017 –Bizvibe.com
- Top Suppliers of Plastic – sapling.com
- Top 10 Largest Plastic Producing Companies – plastics-technology.com
- List of Plastics Material And Resin Manufacturing Companies – ranker.com
- Top 10 Best Plastic Companies in The World – trendrr.net
- Top 10 Biggest Polluters in The World (aka countries) – ceasepollution.com
- The Top 10 worst plastic polluters worldwide – insidethecask.com
- Coca-Cola reveals how much plastic it uses – BBC.com
Will you make the pledge to stop using Single Use products?
Is your company having conversations about reducing travel to reduce overall CO2 emissions? Are they asking you to only travel if it’s critical? Are they encouraging eco-friendly travel i.e. trains? Or more online meetings? Are the big global/regional corporate events still on the agenda, with no consideration of environmental impact?
If this conversation hasn’t started, why not start it yourself? Get out ahead and win the PR game by making it public too. For many, it’s impossible not to travel (me included), but we must reduce travel (specifically flying) and do it soon if we’re going to cut escalating CO2 emissions, because the airline industry is one of the top polluters. Learn about emissions at iea.org.
It's more than just flying
However, when you are traveling, are you staying in hotels working hard to serve the environment. Hotels with a real commitment to sustainability?
The chains doing good include: Marriott/Starwood (360 Serve); Hilton (Meet With Purpose); and Accor (Planet 21), as well as smaller hotels. Let’s reward businesses doing good, take those that aren’t off the preferred supplier list, and warn those who don’t get it that the time has come to change or lose our business.
Travel with a reusable coffee cup, a stainless-steel straw, re-usable cutlery and food containers for those in-room take-away meals, a small bag in your carry-on for duty free, a re-useable shopping bag in your suitcase for purchases, a refillable water bottle, and say no to plastic bags whenever possible. If you can carry it in two hands, ditch the plastic. We all must build sustainable habits. Let’s aim to leave empty trash cans in our hotel rooms.
Let’s talk about the events business
Not just for EventProfs but for attendees too - we can drive this! We must change how we run and participate in events. This is an industry that will be impacted by climate change, as corporations recognize the need to significantly reduce travel due to the enormous impact of CO2 emissions. It hasn’t happened yet, but the ground swell of opinion is growing and we must prepare. Technology is also enabling different opportunities for events, and yes, while not ideal, big changes are coming. Let’s prepare but also act now.
What can we do to make events more sustainable?
- #SingleUseNoExcuse needs to be a mantra – no plastic water bottles (most are half empty when thrown away), no balloons, no unsustainable glitter
- Ditch goodie bags – how often do you immediately throw away the content? It’s usually so bad, it breaks within a day. More so for consumer events, where goodie bags are produced at mass scale, going straight to landfill
- Go fully digital – why print agendas and additional marketing content that immediately goes into the bin? Seriously, no one reads it!
- Stop the cheap stuff – pens that break instantly, notepads half used, etc..
- Support sustainable venues – enough said. Give business to those doing good and are committed to Mother Earth #MX
- Speakers – make a pledge – demand sustainable events
Time to take on the media
One of my greatest frustrations in the rising urgency around tackling climate change, is the media’s unwillingness to cover it as a priority, how many publications mock and discredit those taking action, plus the media keeps giving equal airtime to climate change deniers!! When 97% of scientific consensus tell us climate change is real AND caused by humans, why are the media still ignoring this crisis?
The media is changing far too slowly, and it’s time for rapid change, especially as broadcast news dominates how we access information today. The media are messing up in many areas right now, but this is the most critical miss! What can we do?
- When the media cover GDP numbers or business growth, and do not discuss the potential climate impact of this growth – CALL THEM OUT ON IT
- Insist that your media include climate impact in all news stories when relevant and tell them when they don’t. Ask them to make Climate Change a central theme woven into all sections – weather, business, travel, finance, fashion, health, etc…
- Insist your media have a permanent front-page/on-screen feature that presents CO2 emissions for that day — check out CO2.earth for that figure
- Email them/write in the comments when they miss the critical climate impact of any stories — keep up the pressure
- Do NOT support media that is not making Climate Change a top priority — they’ve lost that chance. Support those who do!
Here’s an article on media bias in the US to add some flavour to the message.
Let’s take on the media and get them to finally address the criticality of the Climate Crisis — right across all aspects of coverage. They want to report a growth story? Great, talk about it within the context of climate impact too. They want to put their heads in the sand or make all protesters nutters? Awesome, switch off from them!
What are you wearing?
The fashion industry…. One we can’t ignore when looking at the environment — whether we’re a luxury buyer or addicted to fast fashion — because, you know, it’s not like we’re going to walk around naked — especially at work. I hope not!
- Clothing production is increasing, but use is declining
- The industry creates massive levels of waste, generating more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping + flights combined (Source @WEF)
- It takes 2,700 litres of water to make ONE cotton shirt — that’s enough drinking water for one person for 2 ½ years (Source World Resources Institute)
- It’s a cruel industry for garment workers — typically women — underpaid, abused, unsafe environments
- “In the last 15 years the industry has doubled production, while the time clothing is worn before it is thrown away has fallen by around 40%. When it is thrown away, 73% will be burned or buried in landfill. What does get collected for recycling — around 12% — will likely end up being shredded and used to stuff mattresses, or made into insulation or cleaning cloths. Less than 1% of what is collected will be used to make new clothing.” @WEF
- The global apparel and footwear industries account for an estimated 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (Quantis). That’s low you say? It’s expected to increase by 49%…
- Let’s kill the #NotAgain movement — shaming influencers for wearing an outfit more than once… yes, it happens
- “60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide are made of plastic — polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibres (International Cotton Advisory Committee). With a typical wash, one study found that 700,000 plastic clothing fibres could come off, polluting our seas with more microplastics (Marine Pollution Bulletin). And that’s a conservative estimate.” (Source: Green is the New Black)
- 100% of marine species have plastic in their bodies. What we wear is a huge contributor to that
- How we buy/wear fashion appears as a big X on graphs. How much we buy goes up Vs how often it’s worn is decreasing at same rate
- 63% of fabric used (aka virgin feedstock) is plastic, 73% goes into landfill or is incinerated (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
The fashion industry must prioritize a circular economy. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, that means:
- Phase out substances of concern and microfiber release
- Increase clothing utilization
- Radically improve recycling
- Make effective use of resources and move to renewable inputs
Based on my understanding, the fashion industry is not collaborating to change its growing climate impact. It’s an industry of self-protection, with none wanting to lose competitive advantage by being a first mover. First movers, in this case, do not win! It’s also an industry that hasn’t changed since the devastating Bangladesh building collapse in 2013, resulting in well over 1,000 deaths. It appears, brands will lose if they commit to sustainability, but equally, our demand for fast fashion is also making it an inhumane industry. The supplier and buyer must change!
What can we do?
- Check out the #WhoMadeMyClothes movement — we need more accountability/transparency in this industry — much more! Let’s demand it
- Only buy from brands committed to sustainability. We can no longer support brands who value profit over the future of our planet. The future has no place for greed/protectionism above all life on this planet
- Buy less, buy higher quality, wear longer, recycle thoughtfully. Avoid fast fashion! Visit a second-hand shop! Make ethical fashion a priority
- Join or start fashion swaps! This is growing in popularity and some interesting business models are emerging
- Avoid polyester, nylon, acrylic + other synthetic fibres to stop microplastics entering our oceans. Buy less. Remember cotton is a thirsty fabric
- Let’s change the cultural thinking around fashion together — we are overconsuming everywhere. Fashion is an important pillar of that. You and I can make a difference in how we spend
Fashion, it’s a dirty business, and the more I uncovered for this section, the dirtier I realized it was. However, while the industry is resisting collaboration to reduce emissions, our acceptance of many of its practises leaves us complicit too. It’s not just environmental impact, but the working conditions for garment workers too. Are we happy to keep tuning a blind eye? When it comes to addressing climate change, I hope everyone sees this is something we can immediately change.
What’s for lunch? Or Makan Already Ah?
A simple environment hack — we can ALL start doing — to reduce the amount of waste pouring into landfills, rivers and oceans around the world, is to look at our lunch and broader dining habits. Recently, Hubbub released a report stating British workers’ lunch on-the-go habit is creating 11 billion items of packaging waste per year!! This is averaging 276 items per person per year. Now we know this isn’t just happening in the UK!
It’s crazy right? Especially as we discard packaging from our lunch instantly, and much of that waste can remain intact, in the environment, for up to 1,000 years! We must start thinking about the impact created from our buying decisions and dramatically shift our wasteful mindset. Shame will come to those who don’t change.
The developing world has had enough!
It’s preposterous we ever allowed our waste habits to get so bad, and now the developing countries in Asia are saying no to the Western world’s rubbish — to which I say BRAVO! You won’t deal with your waste if you don’t face it. Since China said no to foreign rubbish imports in 2018, the waste industry has been seeking new markets for dumping.
And they’ve been busy! This is a corrupt and deceitful industry, with much of the rubbish shipping both mislabelled and misrepresented. Recently the Philippines threatened to ship Canada’s waste back — after years of stand-offs — but the Canadians conceded when the Philippines threatened to dump it in Canada’s oceans if it didn’t take it. And Malaysia shipped back contaminated waste to Britain.
I salute the governments of Asia for stepping up and saying no, but equally, the mindset of dumping waste elsewhere is revolting. It’s colonial.
We must face our waste crisis, because to deal with it, it must be confronted. And we need to deal with it.
Every single one of us, as well as the largest plastic polluters on the planet. The top 10 again are: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Danone, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Perfetti van Melle, Mars Inc. and Colgate-Palmolive.
What we send elsewhere, pollutes rivers, the local people are being poisoned, developing respiratory problems, etc… and it is creating havoc on the global environment. Is our dependency on a plastic or Styrofoam boxes for our lunch worth lives? That’s what’s happening! People are dying. Animals are dying. The planet is dying. We are responsible.
Not that shipping it over there is going to get rid of the problem. We are all connected. The world is connected. There is No Away.
Let’s change our trashy habits
- Get yourself a work lunch box — a container for food, cutlery or chopsticks, and anything else you need to eat your lunch
- Get your office set up so employees can wash/store lunch boxes
- No plastic bottles in the office and encourage all employees to BYO. Let’s get rid of the plastic scourge #SingleUseNoExcuse
- Talk to your friends and family. We need to change this deep culture of wastefulness and thoughtlessness. Everyone has a role to play
- Don’t buy from delivery services that don’t have sustainable packaging — hint, very few do!
- Don’t buy food in plastic containers e.g. microwave meals. Write and ask the providers to change packaging or you’re out
- Employee welcome packs — make them sustainable, include all of the above to get them off to a great start
We must start reflecting on EVERYTHING we buy and every gift we accept. We need to ask — what is its impact on Mother Earth? Will it outlive me? Will it outlive my body decomposing? If so, do I need it? Just think of the freebies offered in shops? Nasty give-aways that end up in landfills within days, not even weeks. Say no to crap.
Big corporations must change too and quickly. Everything sold needs a shorter lifespan on the planet. I’m not talking cheap, nasty products, but products that exist long enough to be of use within the context of what it is designed to do, but then it must break down or enter a circular economy.
We all have a role to play. The greatest issue we face is lack of thought. Next time you buy something, ask the question — how long will this really last on earth, beyond my use of it? And is that worth buying? Let’s move away from thoughtless consumerism.
The main change we need to drive is to get everyone to really think about our individual and collective impact, so an easy one to address is how we eat lunch at work, but I think we can consider this more broadly and apply it to take-away culture too. Besides, do you know how toxic food packaging is? Here’s an article discussing the toxicity of food packaging.
Let’s talk partners and supply chains
A critical part of any business is partners and supply chains. Whether it’s technology, fashion, construction, aerospace, or name any other industry, the path to market is typically through 2nd parties. Local knowledge is always valuable when doing business around the world.
But there has always been a regular stream of negative news about second (even 3rd party) suppliers, which rarely maintains the sustained media coverage it deserves. When the news broke about the Dhaka Garment Factory Collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, which resulted in the deaths of 1,134 people, Disney announced it was taking all operations out of Bangladesh, a shameful moment for a global brand, rather than stay there and make it better!
However, the collapse highlighted the fashion industries lack of commitment to it’s supply chain, because, no matter the business you are in, every part of the supply chain should be held to the same standard as the corporate business. Ignorance is no longer a valid excuse.
The ugly side of business
There are many brands that have been named and shamed: H&M, Nike, Walmart, The Gap, La Senza, Victoria’s Secret, Sears, Joe Fresh, Marks and Spencers, Apple, HP and many more. Of course, those called out regularly are consumer brands, but there is a whole other layer of ugliness happening in non-consumer business that is never discussed. We even seem surprised when news breaks on these stories!
Why the consumer side matters is, sweat shops delivering for these brands offer horrendous conditions, as we saw in Bangladesh. It is modern day slavery — where people are exposed to human slavery, receive little or no salary, work in appalling conditions, for long hours, are exposed to physical and sexual abuse, child labour continues to be prevalent, and a lot more. It is a shameful side of fast consumerism.
What’s this got to do with the environment? Companies operating at this level are hardly going to deliver a sustainable business, that is good for the environment, right? They do it cheap to stay in business and we, the consumer, are part of this vicious cycle. We vote with our wallets. We want fast and cheap.
What can we do as individuals?
- Research the companies you are buying from and their partners. Know their environment and sustainability commitment. Read their annual report (available on the media section of Websites) and study their environment commitment in depth. Research their contribution to the global plastic and waste problem. Track CO2 emissions records (if they’ve gone public) and see if it’s going up. If it’s not public, ask for it as a concerned customer. Share what you learn on social media, so others can learn too. Knowledge is the way out of this mess
- Make a commitment to only buy from ethical brands. End Slavery Now has an updated list of slave-free businesses. Yes, we are still talking about slavery! We have 30 million slaves in the world. Are you happy knowing your money supports slavery? Doesn’t that make us complicit alongside the slave owners? We can change this! If we have the will
- Understand where your bank invests your money — are you ok with that?
- If employed, change your business from the inside or whistle blow on any employer doing great damage to the environment, partners included
Sustainability pledge with partners and suppliers
As leaders in business, an environmental and sustainability policy can no longer be window dressing, or an attempt to “keep the hippies happy” — yes, something I actually heard an executive say. A commitment to the health of the world, and the survival of the remaining species on this planet, requires massive transformation by all of us individually, but especially by the businesses we operate. The supply chain must be a part of that commitment, an extremely critical part.
All businesses today should have or be creating a powerful sustainability pledge, listing out expectations for their business and the entire supply chain involved — a water tight commitment that must be honoured and executed upon. To do business with you, they have no choice but to sign and honour this commitment.
It will need an effective council to monitor partners and suppliers around the globe, because of course, the greatest challenge here is making sure you don’t get caught in the ‘corruption cycle’ — something far too common today. If there are ways out or short-cuts, they will be found and used. Corruption is an enemy of the environment.
None of this is going to be easy
This is probably the most challenging step to address — because changing 2nd or 3rd parties is hard, as you have less control — but it is long overdue from a humanity perspective, and now it’s a critical need if we have any chance to hold off climate catastrophe.
You may not have started to appreciate the situation the world is in, or you may have invested widely, but we have a lot of work to do, big and small. In this case, if you work with partners or the supply chain (or you can influence the teams that do) this is a change you can make. Not easy, but it can be done.
We need massive change, on a massive scale, globally. The shift can no longer be gradual, but if we get our heads out of the sand, it doesn’t need to be brutal.
As individuals, we have to embrace our power and use our voices to raise awareness of the reality of the climate crisis within our businesses. If your colleagues are asleep, wake them up. We must also make a commitment to buy from sustainable businesses and be prepared to pay more for this. Let’s support businesses serving the Great Mother. We have power. Let’s use it!
We are facing a global problem, and the best way to address this challenge is through global businesses. The governments are not going to act quickly enough. A real opportunity is to take a holistic view of our businesses and that includes getting partners and the supply chain to clean up their act.
And if you’re interested, here’s an article discussing unprecedented declines in nature, if you haven’t invested in this information yet.
Let’s look at the lifecycle of products
In an article on Apple’s AirPods, it appears they have been designed and made in a way that they could still be fully intact 1,000 years from now! Regardless of how AirPods are put together — child labour is part of the story — they cannot be recycled and will not break down once discarded. An item designed to work for 18 months!
And in a world first, Vanuatu is the first nation in the world declaring a ban on nappies/diapers by 2020. Creating uproar (for good reason), but this a country at the frontline of the environmental crisis, and they are looking for better solutions. FYI Diapers contain plastic and take 500–800 years to break down.
Our waste is going nowhere
Our toxic technology waste (containing mercury, lead and more) is polluting developing countries. This toxic poison is also seeping into waterways, where we are all impacted, because there is no away.
Here’s how long items last in the environment
- Plastic bottle: 70–450 years
- Plastic bag: 500–1,000 years
- Aluminum cans: 200 years
- Diapers/sanitary napkins: 500–800 years
- Hairspray bottle: 200–500 years
- Styrofoam: 50 years
If interested, here’s a handy reference graphic for how long products last in the environment.
We have to stop producing products that don’t break down and design better alternatives. Did you realize that every plastic item ever made is still on this planet? Plastic production started in 1907.
And we’re not learning, we keep destroying
We have built a world where we consume without thought, AND we’re destroying our forests too — the lungs of the world!
- Forests cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but continue to disappear at an alarming rate
- Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 1.3 million square kilometres of forest, according to the World Bank. That’s larger than South Africa
- Since humans started cutting down forests, 46 percent of trees have been felled — 2015 study in the journal Nature
- And about 17 percent of the Amazonian rainforest has been destroyed over the past 50 years, with losses recently on the rise.
Humans are definitely not the smartest creatures on earth.
What can I do as an individual?
- We ALL need to be more thoughtful about the products we buy. Ask ourselves if it will outlive our decomposing bones — which is approximately 8–12 years? If it will, look for alternatives
- #SingleUseNoExcuse and reject #FastFashion
- Research the impact of products on the environment — technology, cars, home cleaning products, beauty products, fashion, and more…. What can we change? What alternatives are there?
- Support businesses committed to sustainability and the environment. Pressure those not committed to up their game, and if they do not change #NameAndShame
- Speak to your friends and family. Make them aware. We’ve got a lot of work to do here. Education and awareness is critical
As a business and business professional
- If your company makes products, understand what is being done to address the lifecycle of products. Nappies/diapers were invented 76 years ago, why don’t we have an environmentally sustainable alternative? Why do we still have so much plastic? Excess packaging?
- Is your business committed to the circular economy? Do you have a plan for everything that leaves your business to be recreated or recycled into a new product? Are your products designed to last?
- If your business is a major polluter of green house gases, what are you doing to change it? What timeline is your business working towards? Or is it business as usual? Can you wake them up?
A buildup of pressure from employees might be the only way to get companies to change. Governments are certainly not demonstrating the strength needed. Be a champion for Mother Earth.
Support organizations doing great work.
In 2019, Avaaz launched an initiative to create the 5th International Law Against Peace to be established — Ecocide. If this happens, there will be many governments and businesses liable for ecocide. The creation and sale of products that do not break down for hundreds or thousands of years, which are releasing gases as they rot in landfill sites or releasing toxins into waterways around the world, must be up there with the greatest ecocide crimes?
We must think about what we buy and what happens to it after we are finished with it. If it outlasts our decomposing bones, should it ever be allowed to be produced? Please, play attention and buy sustainably. All of our futures depend on this.
We can’t keep growing the way we’re growing
As this draws to a close, it’s time to ask…
- Do you believe in climate change?
- Do you believe we’re heading towards a climate catastrophe?
- If not, do you at least believe we are trashing the world at an unprecedented pace and it must stop?
- Or do you think everything is fine? Nothing to see here?
I prefer to listen to the scientists, as well as the greatest minds in the world — Bill Gates is one of them. So is Vaclav Smil. There are many more.
We’re speaking adaptation
Right now, leaders are speaking adaptation. Adapting to a hotter world. But if many of the predictions play out, not even that will be enough, with large swathes of the planet becoming uninhabitable, and no one will be immune to this impact.
Not to forget, if the 6th Mass Extinction happens — and it’s already well on the way with 200 extinctions/day — we might destroy our food supply and be unable to survive regardless.
The truth is, if we continue blindly, the science clearly shows we’re on a path to misery of such epic proportions, it’s almost incomprehensible. Already teenagers are committing to not having children. #NoFutureNoChildren
I think about this issue all the time, because once you see it, hear it and understand the potential we’re running headlong towards, you can no longer ignore it. That’s why I’ve done this series. This is my contribution to tackling an incredible level of despair, because my children and yours, may never know the beauty of a pristine beach or a perfect mountain top. Instead they may know thirst, starvation and worse. In fact, if you’re under 60, you’re not immune either.
What I knew and loved as a child is no more. Today, our young are facing human degradation everywhere they look. It makes me ashamed to walk the beaches with my children. We have done this. Humans have caused it. We haven’t respected the Great Mother.
We need a Mother Earth Economy right now
One of the challenges we face, is having the guts to embark on a rapid change towards a Mother Earth Economy. This means everything we do, everything we create, every plan we put in place, must have a positive outcome for Mother Earth and all life on our planet. No discussion. It’s the only way.
But is this even possible?
Well of course it is, we just need the courage to face it and create it. Business as usual will destroy us all. Even the greedy will have no opportunity to count their money in a boiling world. The biggest challenge we must face is the disastrous impact of our current economic models (aka capitalism) — across every industry, globally.
Where is pollution coming from?
Human created emissions — which 97% of scientists agree are creating global warming from releasing greenhouse gases — are:
- Electricity and heat production — 25%
- Agriculture, forestry and other land use — 24%
- Industry — 21%
- Transportation — 14%
- Other energy — 6%
- Buildings — 6%
The majority of emissions are from burning fossil fuels (Source EPA). The challenge we face is growth. We can’t continue to grow and survive as a species. We are using too much energy and we are out of balance with nature. Even deniers can see that, right?
Let’s look at growth with just one industry — travel & tourism
The global travel and tourism sector grew at 3.9% to contribute a record $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018. This is its eighth consecutive year of growth.
It’s the second fastest growing industry (behind manufacturing) and is growing at 50% higher than the global economy.
“This sector is forecast to contribute 100 million new jobs globally over the next 10 years, accounting for 421 million jobs by 2029.” (WTTC)
Meaning this industry has strong momentum to keep growing. It provides jobs and livelihoods for millions, BUT at what cost to us all ultimately?
Because a growing travel industry means more:
- Flights + doubling in size of existing airport capacity
- Roads, railways, additional infrastructure, which is far behind demand already
- Hotels/accommodation options = more buildings that require steel, cement, glass, plastic, natural aggregates, transportation, wood, storage, AND the environmental impact of the construction industry. In developing countries, the construction industry does not follow international standards around environmental protection. It’s disastrous
- Additional strains on sewage — yes, not pretty, but lakes, rivers, and oceans are being pumped full of human waste, as existing systems cannot cope with growth — this is apparent in developing countries, where it’s pushing out subsistence farmers — a skill we cannot kill
- Rubbish to be dealt with in tourist destinations — more landfill, more incineration, more pollution into natural waterways and oceans
- Souvenirs to take home, that typically end up in landfill immediately
- Plastic bottles for the thirsty tourist + draining natural water resources in water-starved countries
- Restaurants, bars, plastic cutlery, Styrofoam containers, disposable plates, plastic bags, etc…
- Huge food waste, especially with ‘Buffet Culture’ the norm in most tourist destinations
- Food transportation emissions, as every palette is satisfied in the best hotels around the world
- Taxis, Ubers, Grabs, Buses = more particulate pollutants
- Boats transporting millions of tourists, damaging natural marine parks, polluting our oceans
- The world’s natural and ancient wonders trampled by masses of tourists, oblivious to the destruction they leave behind
- And on it goes
Have you travelled recently? Have you witnessed it? Can we really double in size and expect to curb the climate crisis?
Not to mention, based on how hideous it can be traveling during peak tourist season these days, do we think we really have capacity to keep growing? It’s getting hideous out there…
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) believes, that if current trends continue, passenger numbers could double to 8.2 billion by 2037. Today it is 4.6 billion, which is 130% higher than in 2004. Half of all future travelers are expected to be from Asia.
To break it out according to the IATA — travel numbers by country between now and 2037:
- China: 1 billion new passengers for a total of 1.6 billion
- US: 481 million new passengers for a total of 1.3 billion
- India: 414 million new passengers for a total of 572 million
- Indonesia: 282 million new passengers for a total of 411 million
- Thailand: 116 million new passengers for a total of 214 million
Planes, planes and more planes
The Boeing Commercial Market Outlook is worth reviewing. Up to 56% of new orders are to accommodate growth, not replace existing planes.
- “38,000 aircraft [are] expected to be produced globally over the next 20 years.”
- In the next 20 years, China could require 7,690 new commercial aircraft worth US$1.2 trillion.
- By 2025, India is expected to become the “third largest” aviation market and supply about 478 million passengers by 2036.
- Over the 2018–37 period, passenger traffic in the Middle East is forecast to grow at 5.2 percent, creating demand for 2,990 new aircraft valued at US$660 billion (Deloitte).
Here’s some other references for growth:
Time to build a Mother Earth Economy
I could continue with examples but let’s get down to it. We are already out of time. There are several tipping points already passed that will unleash hell, and we need to adapt to a new normal.
How bad that new normal gets is up to us. Three degrees and above is not something any of us want. Eight degrees is an uninhabitable planet for human beings. Most of life on planet earth will be gone by eight degrees, and long before that, remaining humans will be destitute.
An Extinction Rebellion co-founder said: if you’re over 60, there’s a chance you won’t have to face the worst of what is to come. Below 60, it is in our lifetime. For the young, it is worse — famine, war, no drinking water, billions of climate refugees, a world of horror for all.
What can we do?
We can’t change much of what is coming, but we can reduce impact. Right now, we need to be brave, bold, and we must be honest about what we have done to our earth. Please spend time reading the research to understand what is happening.
I truly believe the best chance we have right now is for business to lead this change. Politicians won’t do it. The media isn’t doing the crisis justice either. Business has no borders, no nationalities. Business is global.
But all corporations have shareholders and an existing business model that is profit and growth driven. Think about what the growth of your business and industry will mean to planet earth? Can your industry double and not increase emissions, not further the crisis?
Think about what growth in your industry means?
Think about the mindset of continuing with business as usual, when we are driving humanity and all living things off the proverbial cliff in the process? Earth will bounce back. It always does. WE won’t.
We can only go in one direction if we continue, and therefore, we need to be brave enough to stop everything we are doing to work out how we create a Mother Earth Economy. When we do, we must accept the pain that will come in the short term, because avoiding this pain is not an option. So let’s face up to it — pain now, or extinction?
The choice is ours.
And some people think it’s pretty close… ‘Humans will go extinct within 30 years’ — Science And Space.
Why will business do this?
Many ask me, but why will business do this? Well if they don’t, there will be no business. Isn’t that incentive enough?
Let’s fight for a Mother Earth Economy
Right now, the global business community stands the best chance to face this crisis. Please, join me and let’s lead the fight from where it matters most — within your business.
No matter what we do, one way or another, everything will break down, and while nature will continue to show us its vicious beauty, it is only a matter of time until the global economy starts its ecological breakdown too. It is inevitable. BUT it doesn’t have to be as bad as it can be.
Calamity or a better world?
So the question is, can you face it? And then can you imagine how amazing we will feel if we have the courage to fight this and build a new world — a world that will be different from today, but a world in harmony with all living things? A world that will be better for all living things, including humans?
If we don’t wake up, we are heading towards calamity. I am attempting to do my part to drive the change needed, and I ask you — can you help me? Can you become a warrior and change your business from the inside? Can you spread the word? Can you demand change? Can you get your business and entire supply chain #MX compliant? (#MX = Mother Earth Experience).
What’s our layer in the stratigraphy?
That’s why I fight. I am inspired to help move humanity to something more beautiful and more in alignment with the Great Mother. We have ravaged her for long enough and our greed and consumption have caught up. She doesn’t care because she is enduring. We are not.
If we do not change our ways, in 100 million years from now, all that we have built, all that we hold sacred, everything ever created by man, will be nothing more than a line of stratigraphy — “a sheet not much thicker than a cigarette paper” — in the stratum of earths’ geology.
We can change our future. Now we need to see if we have the courage to do it.
Thanks for listening. If you have ideas or anything to add, or other topics to include, all is welcome. Let’s do this!
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I believe it’s time for all of us to embrace our voice and embrace the future. We do this by working and living ‘out loud’ with meaning, intention, integrity and by being true to ourselves. If you own your voice, you will own your future.
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