Trying to influence people to tackle climate change? – Stop talking about consequences, give positive solutions

If you, like me, have been trying to get people to take action on climate change at home, in the workplace or through communications sent out to customers or members, then this is for you.  I summarise sociological studies that have analysed concern for climate change as well as barriers of engagement.  I conclude by providing some of the best ways to communicate climate action.  

It is very apparent why we need to take action on climate change as well as biodiversity loss.  We have witnessed and taken notice of the severe weather events, climatic anomalies, the numerous protests that raise awareness of future catastrophic impacts, as well as governments actively pursuing agreements that will limit temperature rise.  We know it’s serious.  

Although this is the case, people aren’t making change at scale.  Even organisations are dawdling in delivering real net zero plans.  And although governments are making commitments, evidence shows they are falling behind these short lived public statements.

This is after 30 years of communications efforts have been made to tackle climate change.  So what’s missing?  Why are people turning off to the idea of taking action?  

It turns out that people work hard to avoid acknowledging disturbing information.  They don’t want to feel emotions of fear, guilt, or helplessness.  Where possible, people simply want to follow cultural norms and maintain positive conceptions of individual and national identity.  When climate change is mentioned there is an in-built instinct to protect oneself, to move the subject on, or to simply walk away. 

Some of the other trends are also useful in noting.  Concern for climate change is higher in poorer countries even when they have been exposed to less information.  In wealthier countries, it appears that people turn off their concern for climate change in part to protect their cultural norms.  Outrageously people with a higher level of knowledge about climate change, tend to show less concern.  All of this is due to the sense of helplessness and frustration.  

“Informing the public of the problems can increase frustration and apathy rather than build support. Our research suggests that what the public is most skeptical about is not the existence of problems but our ability to solve them. What will make the public invest energy in these issues is not the conviction that the problems are real, but that we can do something about them.” (Immerwah, J. 2009)

So what gives?  The more we inform people the more they switch off?

Climate denial is not just stimulated by creating doubt about climate change – a widespread phenomenon in the U.S. particularly in the 90s and 00s.  Societies develop and reinforce a whole repertoire of techniques for ignoring disturbing problems.  They do this to maintain coherent meaning systems, desirable emotional states, to maintain belief that they can succeed, and in order to follow norms of attention, emotion and conversation.  In other words we pull the wool over our eyes so we can maintain our collective illusion that everything is fine, so we can all ‘live the dream’. 

Powerlessness and guilt were also found as being major means of avoiding taking action.  Studies found a consistent expression that this is not an individual’s problem, or that carrying the guilt is simply too much to bear.  What is tied to this is the impact taking action has on individual and national identity.  A respondent of one of the studies sums this up well:

“We shouldn’t consume so many resources, drive so much, or travel so much by air. We know that it is bad because it increases CO2 levels. And creates a worse situation. But at the same time of course we want to go on vacation, we want to go to the South, we want to, well, live a normal life for today. So many times I have a guilty conscience because I know that I should do something, or do it less. But at the same time there is the social pressure. And I want for my children and for my wife to be able to experience the same positive things that are normal in their community of friends and in this society.” (Interview with Eric, Norgaard, 2009)

If climate change switches people off, how do we enable change?

What is consistently found through studies is that people do care about climate change, and want to do the right thing.  This is counter to the belief that people don’t care and are selfish.  So as a starting point it is a consistent recommendation to not assume people are selfish in communication, which frames the tone of voice being used.

However, the interplay with the systems of denial that protect the self from guilt, powerlessness, and alienation from societal norms, needs careful consideration.  

To avoid denial, messages need to be non-threatening and frame a positive view of self.  And to avoid negative emotions realistic opportunities need presenting that allow people to participate in positive action.  Where possible these need to counter alienation, by allowing people to participate in community collective action with a positive framing.  

What is also important is to convey the message that a difference can be made now through personal action, and where possible to highlight the immediate economic benefits of a decision.  An atmosphere needs to be created for people to experience positive emotions and positive views of the self, through real opportunities for change.

To counter-cultural norms community movements need to be started which represent a view of parts of society.  An example of this is Fridays for Future, started by Greta Thurnburg, or flight shaming, a phenomenon in Sweden.  Both of these movements have galvanised a certain spectrum of society to reconsider what should be the cultural norm, whilst also shifting national perspective.

To achieve pan societal change, movements need to occur through all parts of society where people associate their identity; workplaces, gyms, churches, political parties, clubs, and societies.  Movements needn’t be big, they can simply be a regular conversation or communication that support collective action.   This could occur through groups talking about what they could do, emails that simply outline what can be done to live more sustainably, and through public declaration of the club/society to take action on climate change. All delivered within a positive framing.

Great ideas, but how do I put them in action?

If you are trying to encourage your family or friends, the best way is not to expose them to your feelings of guilt or powerlessness or encourage that within them.  One needs to be a source of helpful, positive information on the subject, which can be practically put in action.  That could be health benefits of a new diet, positive gains from the use of low carbon technology, or benefits of using a bike.  There should be some challenge on carbon-causing choices, like flying, but these need to be framed as being counter-cultural.

If you’re in a workplace and you are trying to achieve change, then forming a group is a great start.  Finding small things that can be done to improve the office, like plants, recycling, or purchase of recycled paper, as well as forums to exchange means of living sustainably, bring a sense of community around the issue.  Once this baseline enthusiasm is initiated, company-wide declarations may be made.  The important thing is to build a positive community around change.

If your organisation is trying to get your customer base or membership to take action, it would be a great thing to have a well-respected member of that community to outline what they had done, and how it had made a difference to them.  To go further community-wide actions may be called for whereby aa community-wide carbon reduction targets are achieved.

It’s important to remember that the most recent survey conducted by the government found 80% of people were fairly concerned (45%) or very concerned (35%) about climate change.  You are pushing at an open door so why not use this information to galvanise change!

Got your own views on the subject or need more help?

If you have ways to build upon this thinking or need help in engaging your friends, family, or club/society, we have a community at Better Century which is bringing together useful information for people, with a positive framing. You can get input or get help from our digital community.  Simply sign up. 

If you’re trying to get members of your organisation to make a change this can be more challenging.  You may want to join a new group on our community site to get support from people like you – click here to sign up.

If you’re working to make a declaration to be a carbon-neutral or net-zero organisation, you are likely to need some consultancy support in assessing baseline carbon emissions and setting trajectories to net zero.  Our consultancy can help you with this – click here for more information.

If you are trying to galvanise action on climate change through your customer base or membership, we can help by writing tailored communications with tips on personal action with a positive framing.  We can also provide digital tools that help your community take collective action with a joint goal.  If you’re interested in this then set up a call with me to discuss how we could help.

Thanks and further research

I want to give a special thanks to Kari Marie Norgaard, who wrote the paper Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change, Background Paper to the 2010 World Development Report, to which much of the information shared here may be attributed. This paper may be found online if you want to learn more.

Go to the next page to learn more about other references used.

Best Ethical Business Bank Accounts

Starting or running a business and want to give a good impression to customers and your staff? Picking the right business bank account is a great way to start. Read on to learn more.

Why does Ethical Business Banking Matter?

Banks collateralize debt and use money in your account to make investments. Many banks invest in fossil fuels, arms and companies with unethical practices, some solely invest in ethical businesses and renewable energy.

By extension, your bank reflects your business ethos, as your money will be used for varying purposes according to who you bank with. Some may even consider banking within Scope 3 carbon emissions, as money invested does have a carbon factor, especially if invested in fossil fuels.

Your bank appears on your invoices and maybe tracked through your payments. Increasingly the public is becoming aware of banks with poor environmental and ethical investment practices, and although this may not stop someone from doing business with you, it may become a subconcious consideration.

Checking a business bank account is ethical

If you’re running a business you’ve probably already got an account, if you’re looking then these tips will help you make a good decision from the get-go.

Here are some markers you may want to consider in your search:

  1. Investments in the extraction or burning of fossil fuel (e.g. coal mining/power, arctic drilling, tar sands, fracking)
  2. Investments in arms or military activities.
  3. Have they made a declaration of a climate (and ecological) emergency? If so – what actions are they taking?

To save you time on the fossil fuel question there is a brilliant report produced from Bank Track which details level of investment from banks in 2019 into fossil fuels. Barclays, HSBC, BNP Paribas, Santander, RBS as well as many others have billiosn invested in fossil fuels.

You will probably want to ask your bank directly about arms and military activities. Declarations are usually a very public thing so either this will be searchable online or it will be a very simple question for an employee to answer.

The Best Ethical Business Accounts

1. Triodos Bank Business Account

Triodos started in 1980 and only uses money in ways that benefit people and the environment. They do not invest in fossil fuels or arms or military activity, and have recognised the climate emergency, with CEO Bevis Watts signing a letter in support of Extinction Rebellion last year.

The great thing about the bank account at Triodos is there is no standing charge, only charges for transfers and payments in/out of the account. Limitations include only online banking services, and very few high street locations. Cash payments can be made through a post office though and if you need a card for your business a credit card from a seperate provider can be used and put on automated payment.

2. Co-operative Bank

The Co-operative Bank bank has had a recently chequered history, but it has always remained committed to ethical practices. Although not quite a niche in how it limits it’s investments, it does not invest in fossil fuels or arms/military. Although there is not public record of the bank declaring a climate emergency it’s operation is carbon neutral and it has publicly supported the school strike.

For this account you get cards and good online banking and there are no charges for the first 30 months for small businesses, including for transfers/withdrawals. Payments can also be made through post offices, as well as the number of high street banks available.

3. Starling Bank

A relatively new player, which is quickly growing. It has been confirmed through curiouslyconcious that this bank does not invest in fossil fuels, arms or military activities. As a paperless, branchless bank hosted in the cloud their activities are pretty carbon neutral.

There are some great services with Starling including automated annual reports for HMRC and VAT returns, as well integration with Quickbooks. Their fees are pretty reasonable with no monthly charge for a basic account but charges for withdrawals/transfers. This is a great option for a small digitally aware business!

How to Switch Bank Account

Switching bank account is really straightforward and can happen in just 7 days. Simply start an account that then transfer funds.

How to raise the money to #BuildBackBetter

Fundraising is successful with clear messaging and confident asking.  It is about belief in your organisation, your values, your ability to deliver, but above all your donors willingness to connect with your mission.

To #BuildBackBetter charities need to restore their belief in what they can achieve, and now be prepared to go out and deliver big fundraising campaigns that can make a massive difference.  

2021 is going to be about restoring hope in the future.  Charities make that happen by giving a funnel by which people and organisations can make that happen, through an act of giving.

If you agree that this is the year you want to turn it around, here’s how we can help.

Strategic advice

Deciding on what the next campaign should be or the level of ambition, can be difficult.  Or you may simply have a great idea in mind but just don’t know how to deliver it.  We give strategic support for organisations in this place. 

Fundraising messaging

Need to condense your message into something wonderfully attractive to inspire belief?  We help distil thinking into something which your audience and everyone internally can get behind.  Get this right and you’ll raise the money if you ask enough.

Structured asking

A wonderful idea doesn’t get funded because it is inspirational.  It gets the money because the right people are asked in the right way.  We’ll write fundraising applications for you, will coach major donor fundraisers, and will create mass giving mechanisms to deliver million-pound campaigns.  Get us involved and worry not about hitting your target.

Our consultants have tripled income for organisations, have run million pound fundraising campaigns and support some of the best funding approaches to corporates, trusts, grants and individual major donors.  

Want to learn more – book a non-obligatory meeting with us to discuss. Email Tom on tom@bettercentury.org.

Tips on hosting an excellent digital event

Events have key components including presentations, panel sessions, Q&A, networking and sometimes workshops.  Digital events can replicate all of these very effectively if the right platform is chosen.  However, platforms do have a particular niche.  This blog will save you time by offering simple solutions tailored to your event needs, giving you cost-saving advice, whilst giving important insights on platforms that could be used.

If you like what you read and want some support Better Century helps organisations like Low Carbon Homes deliver amazing events.

Single Stage

Single stage events include presentations, panel sessions, Q&A and networking.   Other considerations should also be about branding and associated sponsorship. 

If you go with zoom (£32 a month for 100 attendees) you face problems around branding and live management of the event such as screen sharing, preparing panel sessions and muting, with there being very little opportunity for networking.  There are more professional platforms that alleviate these problems such as Hopin ($99 (£74) a month for 100 attendees) which offer branding, sponsorship space, networking, multiple rooms, speed networking and even support the use of recorded sessions.

An alternative is to stream your event.  This is done through OBS which allows for a technician to take zoom inputs and place them onto a branding background, and then control what is on screen.  You can even cast directly to a youtube channel or your own website and save money on zoom webinar.  

The Hopin Guide to Virtual Events | Hopin

More sophisticated platforms such as SwapCard, HeySummit, Crowdcomms and Brella use this type of technology alongside networking and Q&A integration.  As you can also stream recorded sessions, you therefore have a virtual green room through zoom, making this the gold standard for single stage events. 

Our recommendation is to properly plan your event and move away from zoom into either a streamed system onto a system like Hopin.  The investment of time will allow you to brand and take away glitches, giving better audience engagement.

Virtual Engagement Spaces

Having a virtual space can make people feel like they’re attending a real event.  Engagements can happen during an event and then you will be disrupted by an activity.  Breaking up presentations and panel sessions and allowing people to have a conversation with one another about the content is natural, and gives events a proper conferencing and networking opportunities in the context of the event topic.

There are platforms that support this type of virtual space whilst also giving a stage for engagement as well.  They all offer uploading of recorded content and the ability to manage speakers behind close doors.  Here’s two platforms which could help you:

Remo is a pricey option at $1,200 per annum but gives great table interactions alongside a good virtual stage and whiteboard function for joint working.  Branding and ability to tailor the platform is amazing, and it even can be integrated into our spaces.

How to use Remo Conference as an attendee - YouTube

Airmeet is an amazingly low priced option with there even being capacity to use the system for up to 100 attendees without payment, $99 a month is the next step up with up to 1,000 attendees.  We’ve looked into this system and it provides really cool virtual engagement and is very easy to manage, but isn’t quite as brandable.

The alternative to these systems is Zoom, through break-out rooms, but we feel these platforms really offer a step up in terms of engagement and branding.  For little or no additional money your organisation can get a great experience for users!

Need some help in setting up an amazing event?

Look no further – Better Century can help.  We’ve got a great team of consultants that can help you plan, market and deliver your event.  Get in touch with Tom through tom@bettercentury.org to set up a non obligatory meeting.

Three steps for a council to deliver its climate emergency quickly

Over 400 councils and local authorities have declared a climate (and ecological) emergency, but many are struggling to figure out how they enact that declaration.  That’s because it’s complex and it takes many different players to help enact it, but it’s also an enormous opportunity for the council to find new revenue sources, whilst tackling some of the biggest issues.  

This headache can be turned into a stimulus.  It can revive an area to be one of the most thriving and forward-looking, providing more jobs, enabling stronger communities and becoming more financially stable.  The right people just need to be brought into the room to tackle the problem of the council for them.

There are three stages to delivering an emergency.

1. Determine Scope and Stakeholders

The council’s declarations often don’t consider the scope of being ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030.  Is this the entire council area and its inhabitants or the councils own buildings and fleet, does it include the contractors and supply chain?  These questions need to be considered before you get started and be within the plan of works.

The other area councils often don’t consider is who are the stakeholders who can help this emergency.  They put the ownership on themselves and feel the mountain is too high and steep to climb. 

Getting the right people to organise this work at the onset is paramount.

2. Stakeholder Policy Delivery

The right stakeholders need to come into a room to consider how the council may deliver its policy. Facilitation is needed to unearth opportunities for joint working and income generation. 

The meeting needs to consider the scale of the problem and the potential solutions.  By getting all the right people in the room, months of head-scratching and frustrating discussions can be saved.

The council needs to act as the facilitator and coordinator for developing the answers.  That way they are no longer the owner of the problem. Project teams are created with timelines and they’ll provide papers to the council for consideration. 

Imaginations across specialisms will be tapped into and exceptional ideas will be born, which will open up opportunities for investment in the area.

3. Change Management

Education will be critical for council staff and councillors about the ideas presented. The solution to these issues is often radical.  Most of the time having an outside body to support the provision of condensed material in the form of short papers and edited videos of workshops will help make this easier.

Ideas will come in the form of; regulation, taxation, organisation creation or policy creation.  Filtering these ideas to make a potential a road map for internal stakeholders to consider will help identify the types of resources needed to push forward with the project areas. 

Raising money through new investment sources such as Municipal Investment Bonds, or the creation of investable organisations owned by the council such as Development Corporations, needs to be part of the thinking to ensure money isn’t a barrier. Sometimes this will mean new organisations need creating.

Now is the time for councils to go about delivering on their climate and ecological emergency. Many are struggling to find the right people to support. Let them know Better Century is here to help – with all the experience needed!

better transport

How to Become a Carbon Neutral Organisation

This blog is for any organisation wishing to become carbon neutral or net zero. You may have made this commitment, now you wish to enact it. We tell you how here.

To become a carbon neutral organisation, the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by the organisation needs to match the amount absorbed from the atmosphere through carbon sinks.  To achieve this an organisation needs to decide on the scope of GHGs included in the registry of emissions, assess the quantity produced from that scope and then calculate the amount absorbed from any carbon sinks.  

Once this data a trajectory to carbon neutrality needs establishing by considering how GHG emissions may be reduced or mitigated. This assessment and trajectory then needs to be communicated well.

Assessing Scope of Emissions Included

GHG emissions are broken into three scopes:

ScopeExample inclusions
Scope 1 – direct emissions from owned or controlled sourcesBuildings: Annual oil, gas and LPG for heating.Works: Annual oil, gas and LPG to deliver any other works.Transport: Fuel consumption of fleet vehicles
Scope 2 – indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling.Buildings: usually electricity usage.Transport: Electricity consumed by fleet vehicles.
Scope 3 – all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.Company associated transport: Business mileage in cars (lease or staff owned), train, bus or flights.Commuting transport: Mileage for commuting staff & volunteersSupply chain: Products purchased, leased or franchised, carbon impact of sold products.Waste: Quantity of waste per year.

The only internationally recognised standard for carbon neutrality, from the Carbon Trust, sets a minimum requirement to assess Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with Scope 3 being encouraged.  To achieve ‘net zero’ scope 3 emissions needs to be included. 

Better Century recommends including scope 1 & 2 emissions, as well as scope 3 emissions where they are easily measurable.  Where possible avenues for gathering data around other scope 3 emissions become a means to communicate your commitment to suppliers, creating influence along the value change.  This will be important for consistency within your commitment and public relations.

Assessing Quantity of Emissions

DEFRA releases conversion factors to calculate emissions, and there are standards set for methods to calculate emissions from ISO14064.  Establishing a robust means to calculate emissions will ensure that when the organisation communicates its method to carbon neutral, it is robustly supported in methodology.

The common methods to assess carbon emissions are detailed in the below table, with grey areas showing the difficulty in calculating Scope 3 emissions, which may be addressed through surveys or policy requests, helping influence the supply chain.

SourceCommon Factors in Calculation
Buildings (Tier 1)Annual oil, gas and LPG to heat buildings
Buildings (Tier 2)Annual electricity usage
Transport (Tier 1)Fuel consumption of company fleet vehicles
Transport (Tier 2)Electricity consumed by company fleet vehicles
Transport (Tier 3)Business mileage in cars (lease or staff owned), train, bus or flights (from expense claims)Mileage for commuting to work (from survey)
Waste (Tier 3)KGs of waste per year (by type)
Supply Chain (Tier 3)Supplier mileage to deliver goodsCarbon emissions of products purchased, leased or franchisedCarbon impact of sold products
Investments (Tier 3)Estimate emissions from investments

Assessing Quantity of Emissions Sequestered

If an organisation owns land it may use standards set by ISO14064, to calculate emissions sequestered from that land holding.  The other means to sequester carbon are carbon offsetting schemes, which are controversial.  If carbon offsetting schemes, with natural sinks, were required by an organisation, we would recommend using gold or woodland carbon code standard.

To calculate emissions sequestered from land holdings, it is necessary to have data on the quantity of different habitats.  Academic data associated with specific habitats is then used to calculate carbon sequestering potential of those land holdings.

Reducing Emissions

The most significant sources of GHG emissions are likely from buildings and transport.  Below details possible mitigations for each of the common sources of carbon emissions.

SourceMitigation
Buildings (Tier 1)Insulation & draught proofingSource of heating fuelRenewable heating
Buildings (Tier 2)Electricity supplyElectricity production (e.g. Solar Panels)
Transport (Tier 1)Education on vehicle usageFleet moved to electric
Transport (Tier 2)Renewable electricity
Transport (Tier 3)New transport policiesHire electric cars for long distance travelNew commuting schemes
Waste (Tier 3)Waste reduction target
Supply Chain (Tier 3)Set new purchasing standards
Investments (Tier 3)Move to carbon neutral investments

Improvements on buildings may provide significant cost savings as well as carbon reductions, allowing for a solid financial case to be made for these improvements, which may well attract funding.  Transport may be achieved by moving slowly to electric and by setting policies and targets.

Establishing a trajectory of carbon emissions savings results in commitments to policy or expenditure.  The best method of creating a trajectory is to list possible mitigations and their emissions savings, assess the natural pathway to change (e.g. retiring of vehicle or boiler) and list the cost of the mitigation alongside annual savings, and payback periods.  

Once this business case has been done the organisation can choose when it will make these mitigations, allowing it to set a trajectory to emission reductions, and carbon neutrality.

Communicating Carbon Neutrality

The organisation needs to communicate three things:

  • Why the organisation believes achieving carbon neutrality is important
  • How it’s carbon footprint has been and will continue to be assessed
  • What it will do to achieve carbon neutrality in line with its commitment

It is common for an organisation to create a web page to explain this, so it may be referenced in other pieces of communication.  To offer assurances the organisation should opt to achieve high levels of transparency of scope, methods and results.

To maximise upon the PR benefits of carbon neutrality the organisation should also consider publishing data on its carbon footprint and mitigations put in place in a given year in it’s annual report, as well as celebrating ongoing changes through social media.

Accreditation for Carbon Neutrality is possible to offer alternative assurance, but this comes at considerable cost.  The Carbon Trust holds the only international standard for Carbon Neutrality, the PAS 2060.  They will review the data used for calculations and provide accreditation alongside use of logos, for the cost of £7,000+ (depending on the level of information assessed).

Better Century’s Help to Achieve Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality needs to be in the DNA of the organisation, not an outsourced annoyance.  We therefore help to fill skills and resource gaps, with the aim of empowering internal resources to deliver this work. 

The services we offer are therefore flexible.  We provide the following method (from which organisation can pick and choose):

  • Initial consultation to determine scope of assessments and discuss methodology.
  • Data sheets for organisations to provide data necessary to deliver the assessment.
  • Surveys and questionnaires to engage staff, volunteers and suppliers.
  • Assessment of carbon footprint to ISO14064 standards, including quantity of emissions produced and sequestered.
  • Site visit to assess buildings energy efficiency and potential for different forms of heating.
  • Creation of mitigations sheet detailing business case for adoption, with recommendations for carbon neutral trajectory.
  • Work with external bodies to enable accreditation.
  • Written piece for website.
  • Training of staff and provision of spreadsheets to calculate ongoing carbon footprint.
  • Workshops with staff and other stakeholders to identify popular recommendations.

Outside of the Carbon Neutral activities, Better Century can also support the communications team in providing content to encourage organisations staff and customer base to make changes to reduce their own carbon emissions.

To learn more email tom@bettercentury.org or set up a meeting with him here.

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