Skip to main content
top view of creative layout made out of wild forest leaves with paper card note. Flat lay foliage. Nature concept

Every job is now a climate job

I was delighted to be invited to speak about building a culture of sustainability at the Yorkshire Post Climate Change Summit in November 2022.

My main role is as a sustainability and climate change advisor to organisations looking to enhance their sustainability strategies and as part of that I’m lucky enough to be supporting the Yorkshire Climate Action Coalition (YCAC). This coalition was born out of an idea between Deloitte, Walker Morris and the University of Leeds around three years ago – as we recognised through talking to clients that businesses wanted to start to make a positive environmental and societal impact but were unsure how to navigate the many challenges. The YCAC has since been a safe space for businesses to get together, test ideas, and discuss challenges and commercially practical solutions.

As a group we’ve been exploring some of the most critical challenges around integrating sustainability into the roots of organisations – such as, measuring sustainability performance, how to engage external and internal stakeholders through the journey to net zero, and more recently exploring carbon pricing and offsets. Ultimately, the YCAC is about creating connections between businesses to help develop a new commercial construct that will support the transition to net zero.

The climate change science is clear – we are reaching a tipping point and each and every business, industry, region and country must accelerate their plans to decarbonise. At the summit we heard from climate science academics about the physical climate impacts in the region such a flooding. And as business leaders there is an expectation to act on sustainability issues.

We see a common thread among businesses that have truly harnessed sustainability:-

  • Increased internal understanding through delivering carbon literacy programs which enables employees to identify where their role intersects with making a positive impact on our climate.
  • They embrace change, andfrom an external perspective this might mean new business relationships or even new business models. However, change doesn’t always come in the form of full transformation – it quite often means finding an approach that works, learning to acknowledge it at first then experimenting with ways to build out the sustainability strategy.
  • They drive a culture of solution development through empowering employees to share ideas and by making sustainability an agenda point at every meeting – giving employees the platform to discuss ideas and work together.

The climate challenge has opened up a whole host of additional responsibilities for business leaders. No longer do we have one person responsible for owning an organisation’s sustainability strategy – sustainability related KPI’s are being embedded into reward and performance metrics in the hope to drive sustainability performance throughout a business.

We’re also seeing finance departments take a proactive role in measuring and reporting sustainability factors in line with growing mandatory non-financial reporting expectations. Meaning the role of the CFO and their team is changing – along with many other leadership positions.

We know that for top to toe transformation, businesses need external support from regulators and rule makers, however such change also demands a genuine internal mindset shift from the board down through the entire organisation. It’s this combined with true collaboration between employees and business leaders that will be the real lever of success. And at the summit, we heard how there is a need for accountability – owning your impact on our environment - ‘climate change is everywhere and nowhere’.

The message I took away from the summit was not doom and gloom – it was referenced that ‘change means opportunity’ and there was a definite sense of hope in the room. Nature based solutions are coming out top as one of the opportunity areas for Yorkshire – optimisation of land use, for example. Quite often people fail to recognise the interdependencies between climate and natural capital.

My final message to the summit delegates was, I hope, a lasting one – which is that every job is now a climate job. We must embrace sustainability at all levels of the organisation to contribute to the longevity and success of businesses, our economy and most importantly the planet.