Podcast | What’s L&D’s Role In Tackling Climate Change?

January 26, 2023
June 26, 2023

A third of staff are willing to quit over weak climate action! And yet sustainability rarely makes it into L&D’s key focus areas…

But when you consider that L&D is in the business of behaviour change, and most of us are looking for day-to-day ways to be more sustainable, it feels like a place where we can have impact.

Ajay Jacob (L&D Manager, TomTom) and Fiona Morgan (Director of Purpose at SailGP) joined us to discuss L&D’s role in tackling climate change and tactics we can use.

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Running order

0:00 Introduction to Fiona, Ajay and this episode.
5:18 L&D’s role in the climate conversation.
10:48 Can L&D drive behaviour change?
15:56 Connect people to purpose.
23:59 Examples from SailGP and Sky.
27:47 How to use the right language internally.
36:12 How can it help hiring and retention?
44:32 Using existing data to build narrative.
50:33 Should we incentivise sustainability?

Five lessons on L&D’s role in tackling climate change

1. L&D’s role lies in educating people and facilitating behaviour change

The majority of people really want to do something but don’t know where to start, and L&D is perfectly placed to enable this.

“Where we can play a role is that there’s a lot of data around this topic, but data isn’t the same as information. We can come in and translate that! Use storytelling and L&D principles to help educate, inform and inspire!

“Usually, we’re quite reactive, but this is an opportunity to be proactive and help make that change.”  – Ajay Jacob, Learning And Development Manager, TomTom

2. Ensure you’re connecting people to purpose to embed those behaviours

When these conversations happen above people’s heads, it’s easy to feel detached. And if we want to drive behaviour change, we need people to buy into a shared purpose.

🙌 People who know their why will find their way. 🙌

“My job is to make everyone else do my job. Help everyone understand their role in delivering the target.

“So with our climate action, how are we reducing our footprint? That’s a lot about procurement or our travel team – so your strategy needs to be embedding it in people’s role and approaching like that.

“I’m here to facilitate, help and give knowledge, but everyone needs to do something.”
– Fiona Morgan, Director of Purpose at SailGP.

As Ajay explained, the challenge is to make it feel contextual and relevant, to embed it within their work and reality. It’s about people doing small things differently to become part of the everyday.

3. What about business leaders and stakeholders? How do we win them over?

“Don’t be shy to share the implications on your business! Climate risk has got a huge financial implication for all of us, it’ll affect everyone’s business in some way. Make it personal but make them realise why it’s important in the business and how their team plays a role.” – Fiona Morgan, Director of Purpose at SailGP.

Fiona’s advice was to flip that perception on its head and shape a new mindset.

A lot of the time people think it’s difficult or expensive to be more sustainable. But we can help people understand that while it will change the way we operate, this offers an opportunity to drive business growth.

Whether it’s staff retention, innovation, or advocacy, there are data points and case studies out there that’ll help you build a business case internally.

“It’s about making that effort to go to the business, find out what the sustainability goals are and saying, what can I do to help filter this down and make it contextual in a way that people can engage with.” – Ajay Jacob, Learning And Development Manager, TomTom

4. Be intentional about the language you use and narrative you build

“David Attenborough said that comms is half the problem with sustainability. And I think it is!”

When we make decisions that drive sustainable action, we have to be open and honest about why. And that’s even the case when we have to take actions that aren’t particularly sustainable too.

For example, if SailGP can’t use electric vehicles at an event, they will own that and explain why. When they are available, they also help people understand the rationale for using them.

One way you can build better communication is to be intentional about the language you use.

At Sky, Fiona was part of The Bigger Picture Team because it was all about that longer-term, wider view. And that branding made them more appealing to the rest of the business. At SailGP, they rebranded from sustainability to purpose as it really is a key part of the business.

Words like sustainability might have negative connotations that make people less likely to want to work with you. Whether that’s because it feels very siloed or that it’s going to be difficult.

Fiona recommended Sell The Sizzle to tell a better story around this topic.

5. Purpose and sustainability can build a stronger employer brand

People value meaningful work more than ever and with a third of staff saying they’d consider leaving employers over weak climate action, this could help in the war for great talent!

“At an individual level, helping people find their purpose is one of the roles that L&D can play. Aligning that with the organisational purpose is huge, and we know it has a positive impact on performance. So people are more likely to stay.” – Ajay Jacob, Learning And Development Manager, TomTom

It’s not about the organisation or L&D being perfect, but alignment and direction with purpose helps us be more forgiving and patient because it’s worth it.

“We’ve got statistics from our engagement survey that over 90% of our new talent coming in is because of purpose. Obviously, we’re a new sport, and they could go to Formula 1, football, or golf, so we’re getting some incredible talent because they want to be involved in something exciting, new and that’s giving back.” – Fiona Morgan, Director of Purpose at SailGP.

But this raises expectations, and people want great execution from us. So when we do get things wrong or fail to make the best decisions, we have to be open and honest about that too.

Other resources that might be useful

The Carbon Almanac

SailGP’s first Annual Purpose & Impact Report

Project Drawdown’s Job Function Action Guides

Join the Green L&D Group on LinkedIn