How Do We Get Things Unstuck?

Austin Whitman
March 17, 2022
How do we motivate the people and businesses who want to act, but just don't know what to do? A three-part approach to mobilizing climate action, through advocacy, teaching, and just doing.

How do you get people to mobilize against climate change?

It’s a question we ask ourselves a lot. And it seems that all of our work through the Climate Neutral platform - and most of the work others are doing - comes down to advocacy, teaching, and doing what’s needed to turn and accelerate toward a net-zero future. 

Advocacy: the should. Teaching: the know-how. Doing: the work to make it happen.

We do advocacy by creating certification standards and convincing companies to achieve them. The standards outline the steps we believe all companies should take on climate immediately: measure and begin credibly reducing carbon emissions from your operations, and raise the ante by compensating every year for all emissions. We’re all causing the problem we say we’re so concerned about. It’s time we all begin solving it.

Companies somes ask, “Do I need to do all of these things? Or can I just pick and choose what to measure and offset, and then make a plan to reduce emissions at some point in the future?” The answer: yes, all certified companies must do all of these things, because we think they represent what all companies should be doing.

Advocating for the “shoulds” is just the beginning. Many people have accepted the “should” when it comes to climate change. Unfortunately, too many people are stuck there. It’s much easier to know what to do, and even to tell people what to do, than to actually get people to change their behavior. An important part of crossing that bridge is the simple act of teaching how.

So the second integral part of our platform has been teaching: how to measure emissions, how to think about carbon avoidance and removals, how to build and motivate teams and executive support for climate work, how to build and implement reduction plans.

A little goes a long way. The right frameworks and accessible resources transform people into everyday climate champions. We see it again and again: a team member from a company gets inspired to challenge their company to step up on climate. One thing leads to another, and the company soon has a major climate initiative brewing.

From knowing how, to actually doing, is the final bridge. It’s another one that ever fewer people cross, which is why the world is still struggling with rising carbon emissions. Doing is the difference between acknowledging what should be done, and understanding how to do it, and actually making something happen. Doing is everything. Which is why we spend more time with brands, guiding the process of certification, providing resources within our community, and making sure that action starts today.

Some of the best climate advice I’ve seen in a long time came from the climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe: 

“The biggest problem is not the [small number of] people who aren’t on board; the biggest problem is the people who don’t know what to do. And if we don’t know what to do, we do nothing. Just start by doing something, anything, and then talk about it!”

Whether we’re working with a company with a long history of sustainability, or one that is just diving in for the first time, the process of getting certified pulls companies through accepting the should, acquiring the know-how, and then carrying out the work needed to make eliminating carbon emissions a part of their core business. It gets companies to focus around an achievable set of goals and actions, without which no climate plan is complete.

[Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash]

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About the Author

Austin Whitman
CEO, Change Climate

Austin Whitman is the CEO of The Change Climate Project. He started working on climate and clean energy 19 years ago and believes companies and individuals can make a huge difference for the climate if they're just shown how. When he's not engrossed in organization-building, he's probably with his family or being an amateur at one of his many hobbies.

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