All eyes may be on government leaders at COP26, but in reality, our expectations to ‘save the world’ have been falling on the shoulders of business.
But why not on ourselves? Greta Thunberg proclaimed outside the doors of COP26 that the change is not going to come from inside the meeting rooms. And she’s right - regardless of government (in)action, nothing can change unless we are all change as individuals. Unless we change our consumption habits in our personal lives, and our objectives and motivation to focus our skillsets on the challenge in our professional lives.
Our latest survey, Climate Change and the People Factor conducted by KPMG in conjunction with Eversheds Sutherland, looks at exactly that – companies going beyond embracing a leadership role in combatting climate change, to mobilizing global workforces to take action. The report covers the impact of climate change from the boardroom to frontline employees, examining employee engagement and expertise as key to delivering on decarbonization agendas.
But despite increasing employee interest on these issues, linking these admirable aspirations to concrete action may not be as simple as it seems. Although the ambition is clear – and the scientific warnings increasingly definitive and dire – we still have many steps to go as a global business community in the transition towards a greener economy.
Part of that may be the complexity of the changes required, but it is also because humans are (predictably) irrational. Even when we have the right ambitions in mind, we can easily be influenced by the latent biases that our decision-making is subject to. We struggle to make decisions in an uncertain world –misjudging the likelihood of risks, being overconfident, only seeking information that confirms pre-existing ideas, and actively avoiding ambiguity and loss – and the list goes on.
So, for example, we may want to take action against climate change, but our determination to do so may be lacking – inertia and procrastination may mean you haven’t yet changed over to a renewable electricity provider. Or we may intend to include climate impacts in our decision-making but make a less rational choice due to the way the information is framed, or a lack of certainty – like when climate risk is included in purely qualitative terms (or not at all) in investment decisions.
But you can also use these heuristics and biases to your advantage. There are a range of practical tools that you can employ to ‘nudge’ yourself towards more climate-friendly behavior in both your personal and professional life. The survey suggested that while many are widely deployed in the workplace (such as default office settings and electric vehicle car schemes), few companies have explored more novel mechanisms (like default ESG-aligned pensions) or evolved traditional incentive structures (such as climate-linked individual and team KPIs and compensation). As behavioral insight teams become increasingly embedded in these organizations, there will be many opportunities to further explore how debiasing and nudging techniques can help engage employees in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
After all, the messenger is as important as the message. Every person, every worker, should be that messenger – and to do that, we all need to make the connection between our actions at work and their impact on the environment. We need to embrace the individual - the ideas, the expertise, the creativity, the passion, that is required to help preserve the planet.