10 Key Elements to an Organisational Response to the Climate Emergency?

The growing social pressure to address the climate emergency, as well as awareness of the already harmful impacts of climate disruption, are pushing organisational leaders to respond. But for many it will not be obvious how to respond, particularly when faced with a multitude of other pressures. This is my suggested list for key elements of any response:

Overall Response

1, Acknowledge what this means:

This requires an exceptional response. It needs to be transformative. It will need to be at an unprecedented scale and speed. It cannot be done alone. It is not a small thing which can be allocated to a small corner of your organisation.

2. Update organisational purpose:

As an exceptional and transformative issue this requires a review of purpose. If the purpose remains necessary and can be adapted to be compatible with this new challenge then it should be updated accordingly. For example a school’s new purpose might be to deliver ‘high quality education of a nature and in a manner appropriate for the era of climate change’. (Note:  This blog doesn’t address organisations such as fossil fuel companies whose purpose is fundamentally incompatible with addressing the climate emergency. It may not be possible for these to get beyond this step).

Changing How You Work

3. Reduce greenhouse gas footprint (decarbonize) as fast as possible:

Identifying what needs to change to get to zero carbon as fast as possible and making it happen. This should include supply chains and not be solely focussed on local emissions. When barriers to change are hit there needs to be a collective effort to get past them, bringing in external resources as needed.

4. Prepare for climate impacts

Identifying potential climate impacts and preparing for these now as they may arrive sooner than we predict. Like decarbonisation additional resources may be required to be able to do this.

5. Ensure you are not financing those making things worse

If your organisation is funded through investments in fossil fuel companies or other companies such as airlines whose business models depend on delaying climate action then this needs to change. It’s clearly inconsistent with responding to a climate emergency and makes a mockery of any commitment to action you make.

Changing What You Do

6. Change what is done by the organisation

A school could introduce responding to the climate emergency as a core part of its teaching. A manufacturer could look at its product lines and focus on goods which are more useful for a climate emergency.

Involving Others

7. Involve all members of the organisation

Traditional leadership structures are likely to be insufficient for this response. Finding ways to involve all members of an organisation in this response will be necessary.

8. Get help from outside the organisation

A key challenge for this will be lack of resources. As well as looking at how existing resources can be redirected there will also need to be resources brought in from outside the organisation both in terms of expertise and particularly finance.

Influencing Out

9. Advocate for change and support others pushing for change outside your organisation

As an organisation your voice will be larger than as an individual. This needs to be used to call for action. Become a prominent voice for change.This could also mean working through networks of similar organisations to encourage change and share progress. It could mean joining community or city wide projects for change. It will be important to ensure organisational members (employees, students, etc) can contribute to these collective efforts.

Looking After Each Other

10. Set up ways to support each other

Acknowledging the threat of climate change and the scale of change needed to avoid further catastrophic impacts is psychologically difficult. It will be increasingly important to support each other. Creating a supportive culture and, where needed, mechanisms for more structured support are crucially important.

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This is my first attempt to create a framework for an organisational response to the climate emergency. I hope it will be a useful list for organisational leaders and those demanding change of the organisations. I’d really value comments on how this could be improved.

Brief Version:

  1. Acknowledge what this means
  2. Update organisational purpose
  3. Reduce emissions as fast as possible
  4. Prepare for impacts
  5. Change what you, do not just how you do things
  6. Ensure you are not financing those making things worse
  7. Involve everyone in the organisation
  8. Get help from outside
  9. Advocate for change and support those pushing for action outside your organisation
  10. Set up ways to support each other

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