Culture for Climate Action


August 31, 2021

Culture for Climate Action

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Climate Change and the transformation required to take meaningful action to mitigate the damage it will do, will have have deep effects and impacts on the world’s economies, societies, environment and its people. Change of this scale will require a behavioral, social and cultural transformation.

Climate Change and Action will impact every sector of society and every person whether we like it or not. An organization is no different – changing the way a company works, thinks and acts is not an insignificant challenge – it is monumental.

People struggle with change – but the reasons we struggle with change are well studied and understood. There are a number of key barriers to the change we need in Climate Action in my opinion – others will argue there are many more, but I think if these are addressed first and foremost everything else will follow:

  1. Lack of clarity
  2. Habits
  3. Accountability
  4. Fear

Lack of Clarity

This is especially important when it comes to Climate Action. For example climate change was first identified in the 19th century. However, it is only now and even in the last 2 years that the idea is almost universally accepted. There was a lack of clarity around the scientific knowledge, climate change deniers and those in society who were unsure of how bad it actually would be. It took a summer of wild fires, floods and devastation for the mainstream media including our own national broadcaster to wake up to the fact that climate change is real, it is here and we need to address it.

In an organization, a lack of clarity on the Climate risks, impacts and opportunities for the business can come at all levels – from the boardroom to the production floor and it is only with that clarity that true action can be taken. Clarity can be developed but only through working with the people to inform, educate and give clarity on the impacts and solutions. The following needs to be delivered to all team members – every person in the organization must understand the following:

  • Why the organization needs to change. What are the key objectives of the organization?
  • What will the benefits of the change be to the organization?
  • How will it impact people positively?
  • How will it affect the way that people work?
  • What will people need to do to successfully achieve the change?

When every member of the team has the information above, and a clear understanding of the climate change impacts and the opportunities for carbon reductions – they have clarity.


I have worked on endless energy audits over the years and asked the question “Why do you do that?” and more often than not the answer would be “Because we have always done it that way – it works”. This mindset is a barrier to change – we simply can’t continue doing things the way we always have.

We need to challenge each and every decision we make in life, work and business and ask ourselves “Why do we do things this way – is there a better way?”

Habits are the way businesses have operated for years successfully, they develop standard operating practices, spend endless hours training staff on the way things should be done and focus on operational stability. They are a miracle of human psychology really – once we have developed good habits they are hard to break and this works well for business leaders. However, they can also be something that holds organizational transformation back.

The reason for this is that habits, good or bad, can be really hard to break. In transforming an organization to take true climate action we need to challenge both good and bad habits – we need to motivate our people to question every decision and ask that key question – “How can we do this better”.

Instead of breaking habits, we need to cultivate a mindset of curiosity, that involves challenging the status quo, but being mindful of the status quo, as if we challenge everything without a systematic process for change management then we would have chaos. These techniques work by co-operating with our inner psychology, rather than just steel toe cap boots forcing change.

We need our people to be the change drivers – it has to come from the bottom up.

Take the global climate action movement – the scientists have been telling us for years, governments have been telling us – but when one young girl stood up and said “I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is” – the world start listening. In an organization we need those champions to stand up and say “We need to change”, it will never work if leaders say “You must change”.


Accountability is when an individual or department experiences consequences or benefits for their performance or actions. Without it, it is difficult to get people to assume ownership of their own actions because they believe they will not face any consequences and may on the flip side not receive any benefits of it.

All too often I have seen organizations where there is a Climate Action lead, (Energy / Environment / Sustainability) – and they are the sole person driving the change, they are the one pushing for things to be improved, providing the metrics, battling against others in the organization for funding. If things go well they get applauded, but when targets are not achieved or goals realized they are in the firing line.

One person or even a small group of people cannot bring about the transformation we need for Climate Action. Each and every person in the organization must be accountable for the organizations collective actions and each and every person must be accountable for their own climate impacts in work.

This works very well when considering Health & Safety in Industry – and can work too in Climate Action. To instill accountability into an organization a governance structure needs to be in place at all levels of the organization around the Climate Action program. The benefits to developing this level of accountability are:

  • Improved commitment to tasks and deadlines
  • Creates a sense of ownership in the program so that each and every person feels part of the wider goals – they all share in the success and they all share in the challenges when targets are not met.
  • Performance improvements – by having everyone accountable for climate action, you get a multiplication of results and efforts through collaboration, support and acceptance of their combined goals.
  • Fosters innovation – if every person is tasked with challenging the way that they do things and finding solutions to the climate change challenge then we may find innovation in places never seen before. How many group climate action ideation sessions do the technical services teams like fitters, electricians and operations staff sit in on? These team members are the closest to the plant solutions, they understand their roles, the equipment and the people better than anyone. We put barriers to their innovation by creating difficult project charter documents that require engineering calculations, costings etc in them and by not involving them in the conversations and strategy sessions.


The final barrier to change, and the most important. Fear comes from lack of clarity, view of the long term and understanding of what will happen after the change is made. This amounts to a lack of capacity. Fear can removed as a barrier through creating capacity. Capacity can be created through training, motivation and support to the organizations people. The ADKAR Change Management Model  is a particularly useful tool that you can use to help communicate your change. It outlines five things you should address in your communications:

  • Awareness (Of the need for change, the reasons why and the objectives)
  • Desire (to participate in and support the change) – created through motivation
  • Knowledge (of how to change) – created through training and support
  • Ability (to change) – created through training, support and barrier removal.
  • Reinforcement (to sustain the change in the long term) – created through regularly checking, measuring, verifying results and then celebrating wins and learning from mistakes in the program. This is a 30 year program of change for Climate Action up to 2050. Sustaining it for the long term is essential.

At Climeaction – we have developed a business which takes the best of people from the industry, those with experience in transforming organizations and we are bringing them together around a common purpose of helping organizations take Climate Action.

Paul Murphy
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