Flip The Narrative

Flip The Narrative

Flip The Narrative

What gets people to act on climate change: doom and gloom or sunshine and hope? It’s a question that often gets asked, and the answer is ‘a bit of both’.

In SustainabilityWorks, a dominant theme across our work is the need to flip the narrative on climate action from negative to positive, from crisis to opportunity. This doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of what’s happening or avoiding tough decisions or difficult conversations. But it does mean, where possible, framing things in a positive way to inspire optimism and a ‘can do’ attitude that mobilises people to take action.

We recently published a paper on a simple solution that we believe can help shift the narrative on individual climate action away from negative messages around ‘doing less bad’ (less flying, less red meat, less consumption) to a positive focus on ‘doing more good.’ The idea is to develop a citizen green bond for Ireland that allows people to invest in the country’s decarbonisation journey (see more details below).

When it comes to the narrative from business, much of it is still focused on reductions and efficiencies. This is an important part of the sustainability journey, but if you want to bring everyone with you – employees, customers, suppliers, communities – you’ve got to go beyond this and paint a picture of how life will be immeasurably better, fairer, happier, and healthier when you achieve the goals that you’ve set out. There are a growing number of organisations doing this well, such as Tony’s ChocoloneyInterface, the City of Amsterdam, and the World Economic Forum.

With Ireland’s new Climate Bill setting hugely challenging decarbonisation targets, the government is inviting everyone to participate in a climate conversation as part of the development of the 2021 Climate Action Plan. We hope that through this, a powerful, positive story will emerge for what a sustainable Ireland could look like, one in which all of us – citizens, business owners, farmers, politicians – become the heroes in the story where the people save the planet.

Quote of the Month



Our March Top 5

  • Climate Action Bill: the 23rd of March was a landmark day for Ireland, with the publication of the Climate Action Bill, which commits us to being a net-zero carbon State by 2050 and to achieving a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030. Prof. Diarmuid Torney gives a balanced appraisal of the bill in this article, and journalist Kevin O’Sullivan asks what happens next in the run up to the first carbon budget (Irish Times)
  • Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR): this new EU legislation, which is being rolled out in stages, aims to drive €1 trillion into green investments over the next decade and will force finance providers to transparently disclose how sustainable they actually are, giving firms with genuinely sustainable products an edge (Reuters.com)
  • Netflix Net Zero + Nature: Netflix is the latest big corporate to announce a really ambitious net-zero plan. They’re aiming for net-zero emissions by the end of 2022, with a plan to reduce, retain and remove carbon ‘in concert with nature’. The plan is genuinely impressive and really well thought through, as this excellent blog sets out. We also love their ‘Yes, And’ approach. (LinkedIn)
  • Carbon across the food value chain: with agri-food contributing around one third of greenhouse gas emissions, it’s vital to understand where along the value chain those emissions are coming from, so that action can be focused on those areas. This article describes the result of a first of its kind study that’s provided this information (Anthropocene magazine)
  • European Central Bank and climate risk: the ECB recently conducted the first ‘economy wide climate stress test’ and the preliminary findings, outlined in this article, show that climate change represents a major source of systemic risk, particularly for banks with portfolios concentrated on certain sectors or certain geographic regions (Irish Times)

A Citizen Green Bond for Ireland

What if your savings could help save the planet, while earning you a solid financial return? What if you as an individual could invest in large-scale ‘green’ projects that would reduce Ireland’s emissions and benefit local communities?

All of this is possible via a simple mechanism: a Citizen Green Bond. It’s an idea we at SustainabilityWorks have been advocating for the last two years with policymakers and State Agencies. As well as being a low risk way for people to earn interest on their savings, we see it as a way to change the narrative on climate action, give citizens some collective ‘skin in the game’ and empower them to go beyond small lifestyle changes that can often feel like a drop in the ocean given the scale of the problem.

We’ve written a short 2-pager on the idea. Check it out and let us know what you think! As citizens, investing our money in the right things is one of the most powerful ways we can influence a sustainable future. We’ve got lots more to say on this topic, so watch this space!

Success Story: All Ireland Pollinator Plan

In order to inspire people we need stories of genuine success that show it’s possible to create positive change when we really put our minds to it. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is a perfect example of such a story. Developed by Prof. Jane Stout of Trinity College Dublin and Úna FitzPatrick of the National Biodiversity Data Centre, its goal is to reverse the decline of wild bee species in Ireland to ensure the sustainability of our food, avoid additional economic impacts on agriculture, and protect the health of the environment.

The Plan recently celebrated the successful delivery of its first phase from 2015 – 2020. There is now a new plan in place for a second phase to 2025 that is even more ambitious. But what’s really remarkable about the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is that it’s completely voluntary. It has involved everyone from farmers, to councils, transport authorities, communities, businesses, schools, sports clubs and gardens. A truly collaborative effort. Congratulations to all those involved!

Project Drawdown: Climate Solutions 101

We’re big fans of Project Drawdown and have shared links to their various initiatives in past editions of this newsletter. What we love is their focus on solutions that have serious, measurable impact.

Their latest offering is this ‘Climate Solutions 101’ course – a series of 6 short 15-minute videos that take you on a journey from problems to solutions. The course is free, full of great content and conversations with leading experts, and really well delivered. We highly recommend.

Sustainability Support for SMEs

SustainabilityWorks is proud to be involved in delivering circular economy training and mentoring as part of the MODOS circular economy programme for micro, small and medium size enterprises. MODOS is currently offering companies three free hours of mentoring plus the chance to win an Innovation Award of up to €2,500 to implement a circular economy idea in their business. If you are a business owner who wants to embed circular principles in the way you work visit www.modos.ie

The Local Enterprise Office have also recently launched the Green for Micro programme – a free programme that offers mentoring advice and technical support to help prepare small businesses for the low carbon, more resource efficient economy of the future. It’s available to companies with up to 10 employees. All details on how to apply are on the LEO website.

What We’re Listening To

The Global Optimism podcast from Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac is always a great listen, and they’re currently doing a ‘Race to zero’ series in the run up to COP 26 in November. This episode features Alok Sharma – COP 26 President, Patricia Espinosa – UNCFFF Executive Secretary, Nigel Topping – High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, and Mary Anne Hitt – National Director of Campaigns at the Sierra Club all shedding light on key issues.


What We’re Watching

The Daily Climate Show: Sky news recently announced that on 7th of April it will launch the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change. The 15-minute programme will run on the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter and will be broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday. Sky is the official media partner to COP 26 and it’s great to see them taking this step with their news reporting.

Top of our list for the Easter break is Seaspiracy on Netflix, a 90 minute documentary about the impacts of over-fishing and ocean plastic pollution. It’s bound to be a hard hitting and critical exposé. Critics, including some NGOs and experts, say it contains misleading claims and ‘out of context’ interviews. No doubt viewers will make up their own minds.

Sustainability Jobs