As the second week of COP26 — the UN’s global climate change conference — draws to a close, climate scientists are poring over the pledges made by world leaders, trying to determine whether their commitments to reduce carbon emissions will bring us within the agreed limit of a 1.5 degree global temperature increase. Tools like the Climate Action Tracker present the world’s progress in easy-to-understand infographics. With it, you can see the commitments your country has made.
In the last few years we’ve learned that the climate crisis is one of the most unifying challenges of our time, as extreme weather events have indiscriminately affected both rich and poor countries. We’ve also learned that the climate crisis is an intersectional issue that exacerbates problems of poverty, negatively affects human rights, and hinders our collective progress towards all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals. This makes the crisis a key strategic issue for nonprofits and educational institutions alike.
So what can you do to kickstart an action plan in your organisation?
Listen to Your Stakeholders
Research by Teach the Future found that 77% of students say thinking about climate change makes them anxious. Climate-related anxiety has been given a name, “eco-anxiety,” and it’s not limited to students or young people in general. It is a mental health problem that may be prevalent among staff, clients, and other stakeholders. Listening to the concerns of your audiences is a first step you can take to understand how the crisis may be having an impact on the lives of the individuals and communities you serve.
Reduce Your Emissions
New regulations — like the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, launched in Europe earlier this year — require organisations of all types to report key sustainability data and share progress on emissions reduction. Institutions like the Alliance for Sustainability in Education are publishing the sustainability reports of leading universities in an effort to promote progress and share best practices.
Although tighter regulations may not yet have been announced where you live, you can get ahead by first determining what your carbon footprint is. The Carbon Fund’s Emissions Calculator for individuals and businesses can help you think through the types of emissions you are generating and calculate the total amount.
When you’re ready to take your emissions tracking a step further, tools like Salesforce’s Sustainability Cloud can help you automate emissions tracking across your organisation and your wider supply chain, offering key insights to help you develop a plan for emissions reduction.
Reduction is the most important and immediate priority for us all. Given that the energy industry is the highest emitter of carbon globally, we can start by pressing the energy suppliers we use for our homes, offices, and buildings to switch the supply to renewable energy sources. Where this isn’t possible, we can help drive the transition by purchasing high-quality carbon credits that finance either the creation of new renewable energy supplies or projects that offset emissions, such as through tree conservation, restoration, and planting. Nonprofits like Cool Effect are creating marketplaces for offset projects that you can invest in today.
Lead From the Front
So you’ve listened to your key stakeholders and started to think through your own carbon footprint. What next? One of the key aims of COP26 is to obtain commitments from world leaders to fund the climate response and help countries both adapt to its effects and innovate new solutions to help mitigate it. While discussions regarding government funding evolve, philanthropists and foundations continue to step up, pledging billions of dollars to tackle climate issues. The funding landscape is beginning to change, and will likely grow as climate issues evolve in the years ahead.
So what issues are you and the stakeholders you work with facing? You may need to rethink your business model, now that you have evaluated the emissions you produce. Maybe when you listened to the people you work with, you discovered how extreme weather events will impact their future needs or the deliverability of your programs.
It’s time to consider how the climate crisis will affect your organisation’s vision, mission, and strategy. Find your starting point, which may mean sitting down with your CFO, fundraising team, programs team, or all three. Develop your point of view. Propose that climate becomes a risk in your board risk register. Connect with other organisations that are a step further in their journey, and ask them to share their progress with your leadership team.
This year at Salesforce, we launched the Net Zero Climate Action Plan, which openly and transparently describes the six ways we’re working toward our own climate goals, and which we hope will be a useful resource to all our customers, partners, and other key stakeholders.
Want to learn more about the unequal effects of climate change? Check out our third Impact Labs cohort, which will focus on climate justice.
About the Author
Nonprofit Strategic Industry Advisor at Salesforce.org