Climate strikes show why businesses must engage employees

On Friday 20th September the world witnessed the largest mass protest for action on global warming in history. Just 1 year and 1 month ago Swedish Climate Activist Greta Thunberg took time off school to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament calling for stronger climate action. Soon other students began to do the same and the Fridays for Future or School Strikes for Climate took off.

Fast forward to Friday 20th and over 4 million people took part in climate protests in over 163 on all 7 continents, there was even a small demonstration in Antarctica.

Carbon Credentials staff joined the 100,000 protesters in London and headed down to Millbank by the river. Students, teachers, children, parents and workers stood placard to placard and chanted together with the purpose that their message be heard by the government and, more importantly, heeded.

Why were people striking?

To demand radical action from the UK government to save our planet.

Radical change is needed from Governments and policy makers but also businesses must recognise their implicit contribution to climate change and the shared responsibility to do something about it.

The science is stark – the next 5 to 10 years are critical if we’re to avoid the worst effects of climate change and prevent substantial environmental, social and economic damage, as reported in the 2018 IPCC report. We know why we need to become zero carbon, we understand the evidence behind this, and we recognise that Governments and businesses are not doing enough. The dangers of not limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels are severe.

What can businesses do?

We took the opportunity at the strikes to survey the crowd, asking individuals a set of questions about their opinions on climate action in the UK and what they were doing personally to combat climate change. Some interesting figures came out of the survey:

  • The strikers were well informed, the majority picked aviation/shipping, and agriculture as the two biggest challenges facing decarbonisation. These two are the hardest sources of emissions to measure and reduce.
  • When asked what they have personally done to reduce their impact 40% said they have changed what they eat, specifically reducing their consumption of meat or have stopped eating it entirely.
  • Consumer behaviour will continue to shift, 35% of our survey pool said that the biggest change they’re going to make to reduce their impact will be by changing the stuff they buy and 31% said they are going to change the way they travel.
  • When asked specifically how their buying behaviour would change our respondents cited buying secondhand clothes and being more conscious of a products plastic packing and carbon footprint as key ways to reduce their impact. When asked about travel our respondents overwhelmingly said they would reduce how much they flight and some said they would stop flying altogether.
  • It’s not just consumers who want change, we asked if employers (or school/community) are doing enough to address the climate crisis 60% either disagreed or strongly disagreed.

These results echo findings from our research conducted last year, The Carbon Commitment Report, which set out to understand current levels of commitment to climate action in businesses across the UK. When asked if their employer was doing enough to actively engage them in reducing their carbon footprint 57% said no. Engagement of employees, and students and communities alike, is crucial to ensuring the success of a carbon reduction strategy.

Businesses can learn from this feedback and invest time and effort into engagement strategies that galvanise employees to not only deploy the needed sustainability initiatives but also understand why they’re doing it to ensure buy-in.

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