Real Leaders

9 Ways to Become a Climate Positive Leader

For most of us, climate change looms large, threatening to overturn every aspect of how we do business. But as a leader, you know that within every challenge lies opportunity — and climate change is no exception.

With an eye towards innovation and partnerships, you can harness this moment and establish your company as a climate-positive leader, moving gracefully through uncharted waters to contribute towards a world you’ll be proud of. 

Conventional thinking won’t do, regardless of your industry. Here’s an example: 

As an environmental nonprofit that plants trees around the world, it’s evident that what One Tree Planted does directly supports a healthier and more sustainable planet. But nonprofits aren’t that different from any other business when it comes to what’s required for leadership and success. If we operated like most other environmental nonprofits, we’d be struggling to fundraise and lamenting global forest loss. Instead, we’re an incubator of ideas that get tested before reaching perfection status. We focus on what’s possible instead of what isn’t. And we foster collaboration that gets trees in the ground much faster than many governments can. 

The problems of today won’t be solved by the same thinking that got us here in the first place, so forget what you or your company have done in the past and forge a new path forward.

Balance the needs of your business with those of the climate. 

So how can you embrace and influence the tide of change instead of being swept away? Simple: adapt your strategy one part of the business at a time. Staff, supply chains, infrastructure, customers, and messaging are all ripe for assessment and a shake-up in favor of making each more sustainable. And if Covid-19 has impacted your business as many have, you may already be in a place of profound evaluation. As you rebuild your business after this disruption, focus on creating new systems with the environment in mind.  

Here are 9 ways to lead for climate:

Connect Sustainably

Work with your electricity suppliers to shift toward more sustainable sources of power and eventually get 100% from renewables. Having a power source that doesn’t pollute will be a great foundation upon which the rest of the business grows.

Collaborate Wisely

When necessary, pool resources with your competitors to develop innovative solutions to industry-wide environmental concerns. In 2018, PepsiCo, Danone, Nestle Waters, and Origin Materials formed the NaturAll Bottle Alliance to speed up the development of sustainable packaging. 

Be Transparent

Set ambitious, measurable goals and share your progress transparently. This will build brand trust and demonstrate to stakeholders that you’re taking climate change seriously. 

Hold Yourself Accountable

Some transitions might be uncomfortable, risky, or costly, but remember why you’re doing this and avoid cutting corners. Ensure that your promises, announcements, decisions, and allocation of resources are all in alignment. 

Stay Committed and Flexible

Don’t try to do it all at once. Stay fluid, build upon each success, and learn from each failure. Allow the momentum to grow organically, carefully monitoring progress, and adjusting as needed. This should be a long-term priority, not a single campaign.

Develop Competency

How much do you know about your company’s impact on the environment? Are you familiar with the UN’s Sustainable Development goals? What about learning lessons from other leaders or businesses who are a step or two ahead? Take the time to understand and equip yourself with the knowledge that will help you make reliable decisions. 

Track Your Progress

Implement quality data-gathering technologies to track and measure your progress so that you can share results with confidence and consistency. That way, you can inspire others to follow suit, but also have the information you’ll need to shift your resources towards the most effective strategies. 

Get Internal Buy-In

Ensure that you’re communicating the mission or new direction clearly to the people who help run your business. The more internal buy-in you have, the more success and unity you’ll see across different teams. And having internal champions will ensure that strategies and great ideas come from every level of management or employees. 

Tell Your Story

Once you’ve got the internal cohesion, you can integrate all of this into your outgoing communications, branding, and PR to show your commitment. And the story here isn’t just that you’re a leader or business that cares about climate change, the story is what you’re doing about it – the impact you’re making, how it helps, and why it matters.

And one last thing, you don’t have to be too serious about all this either. Harnessing our collective power to create the global transformation we need to address climate change should be inspiring and energizing, not stifling and stressful. No matter how challenging it gets, we will figure this out — and things will look much better on the other side. Now is the time.

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