How to convince your employer to take action on climate change

How to convince your employer to take action on climate change

Lucy Piper on how to convince your boss

2022 will be a pivotal year on climate action and organisations must play a part in meeting the challenge.

So how can you convince your boss and others in your workplace to make changes for good? Lucy Piper, director of the recently launched WorkForClimate, shares these ideas.

Netflix and chill the planet

Since its launch at the end of 2021, the Adam McKay climate disaster satire Don’t Look Up, has been streamed for more than 152,290,000 hours on Netflix. Using the most rudimentary of calculations, it’s safe to say that’s an estimated audience of at least 10 million people who have tuned in to watch an allegory about climate change. We have arrived. Talking about the climate crisis is no longer reserved for the most dedicated environmental advocates and activists.

So if you’ve ever felt like you wanted to speak up, but thought you’d risk being labelled an “extreme greenie leftist”, you can be assured that if Netflix are onboard, fighting the climate crisis has finally hit the mainstream. There’s never been a better – or more critical – time to advocate for action, and use your voice to influence change.

Amplify your impact by leveraging your company

Despite feeling helpless and hopeless as we watch the climate destabilise in real time, there is a lot that we can do to make a difference. If we think of change as happening in three progressive tiers it’s easier to identify the areas where you can amplify your impact: individual action (citizens), community action (organisations), and policy change (governments). If you are already taking action as an individual to reduce your emissions and use your vote and voice to advocate for progressive climate policy from our elected officials, then the area where you can have the biggest impact is through influencing the communities you belong to.

When it comes to organisations, the company you work for likely has the largest influence and carbon footprint of all the other communities you’re a member of. So if you can convince your boss to commit to some simple but significant climate goals, you’re effectively using the business as a giant lever to amplify your individual impact on solving the climate crisis. And given we’re at the start of a new year, there’s no better time to help your company commit to some climate resolutions that will ensure it’s on track to transform into its best self (for the planet) in 2022.

Simple but significant goals

So what’s an impactful New Year’s climate resolution you can ask your boss to commit to? There’s four key areas where corporations have the opportunity to make a difference: 

  • Switching to 100% renewable energy
  • Committing to rapid emissions reduction (with at least a 50% reduction by 2030)
  • Switching investments and superannuation to ethical funds
  • Lobbying for progressive policy and advocating for climate 

Each of those have a varying level of complexity depending on your organisation, but all of them are achievable when the key decision makers and leadership team are committed to change. In fact, once your company has made a commitment to their first big climate goal, the momentum usually carries over, and corporations can transform from climate laggards to leaders with breathtaking speed. 

The goal that organisations are usually able to commit to and execute the fastest is making the switch to 100% renewable energy; there’s clear pathways for every different type of business, and with some of the biggest energy users in Australia switching to renewables there’s some clear case studies available to bolster the business case.

How to make the ask

So you know the why (climate catastrophe is unfolding in real time), you know the what (amplify my impact by convincing my company to take action), but how is it possible to convince your boss to make a New Year’s resolution to help save the planet?

First, it’s helpful to frame it in your mind as nothing more than a simple ‘ask’ – you don’t have to present a fully fleshed out business case (yet), you just need to flag that this is an issue you, and many other employees, care deeply about, and that you want to contribute to helping your company make a difference. 

Next, decide who you should approach to make your ask. It will depend on the culture of your organisation, and your rapport with different senior stakeholders, but try to figure out which of the key decision-makers is – or might be – sympathetic to your cause: has any of the leadership team been quoted in the press talking about climate or the environment? Do you have any relevant shared experiences that will help you connect on the issue of climate (such as being a parent, or travel in regions that have been impacted by climate change such as bushfires or floods etc)? 

The ‘ask’ itself can be as simple as an email (but if you have access to decision makers without having to go through gate-keepers then make the most of it!). A helpful framework to clarify your points is the ‘Feel, Know, Do’ triad:

  • What do you want them to FEEL when they receive your ask?
  • What do you want them to KNOW?
  • What do you want them to DO?

For example, if you’re about to email the CEO of your company because you think that switching to 100% renewable energy would be great for the planet, great for your employees and great for your customers, you might flesh out some answers to the Feel, Think, Do framework as:

  • What do you want them to FEEL?
    • Urgency that employees and future talent feel strongly
    • Supported by staff to deliver bold initiatives
    • Encouraged to take action
    • Prompted to consider their legacy 
  • What do you want them to KNOW?
    • Staff and customers want us to do more, to step up and take the lead
    • There are simple changes we can make that will make a big impact
    • Staff can help to drive these initiatives
  • What do you want them to DO?
    • Commit to making the switch to 100% renewable energy 

Once you have these three things clearly mapped out, you’ll be prepared for a succinct conversation or email, and your company will (hopefully) be one step closer to making transformational changes that will help the planet. Even better: you will feel a fraction less helpless knowing that you’ve taken steps to move the needle by moving your company.

Lucy Piper is the Director of WorkForClimate, a not-for-profit empowering individuals to drive change from within their organisations. 

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox