Can we tackle our climate crisis with the same urgency as COVID-19?
This question keeps buzzing round my head. The reality is that we need to think about the climate emergency at a greater scope, speed and scale of action. It needs to increase well beyond what we have seen in response to the pandemic if we are to prepare more effectively for the shocks that the climate crisis is presenting. Bill Gates has recently calculated we need to remove 51bn tonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere every year. Failing to do so he says would cost more than the 1.5 million lives already lost to Covid-19. He calculates it could cause five times more deaths than the Spanish flu a century ago. There is a sense of urgency.
Looking at the evidence
There is an extensive body of evidence showing the ways in which extreme weather events can lead to psychological and mental health outcomes associated with loss, disruption and displacement as well as cumulative mental health impacts from repeated exposure to natural disaster. For me prioritising wellbeing in general has shot up the scale of importance over the past year. Business in particular needs to prioritise wellbeing more and this is an opportunity to think bigger than just our employees. Let’s think about our customers, suppliers, local communities and other stakeholders that can also benefit from business’s efforts on this front. This in turn will transmute into greater loyalty and value.
Now is the time to work together
Climate change like Covid is a common threat to all our community. This is such a turning point to work collaboratively against a common threat.
In 2019/20, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 51% of work-related ill health cases, according to new HSE research. To tackle this rising tide, businesses are turning to wellbeing strategies and resources for help. Businesses that used to provide transient perks are now recognising that more meaningful support is now needed, employees are wanting more genuine and tailored rewards. This might include home office equipment and furniture, a mental health support line or new flexible working arrangements.
Demand for greener working spaces is rising
Office spaces are having to rethink their design leading to business considering different spaces. Gravity is the UKs first smart campus and a blueprint for a cleaner, smarter future,
Paul Lowndes from Gravity highlights the need for a Green Economy saying, “ A green economy can be defined as a low carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive economy which aims at reducing environmental and ecological risks and aims for sustainable development without harming the environment.
A green economy is driven by the desire to achieve growth in employment and income through investment which ensures that the infrastructure and assets allow reduced carbon emission and pollution, energy and resource efficiency is enhanced, and biodiversity is conserved.
Here at New Leaf Workplace Wellbeing we have developed a caring and collaborative ‘green’ ethos that drives all business decisions and contributes towards a positive environmental impact. We have set up ethical banking and pensions, created wellbeing landscapes and planted to encourage night pollinators and amphibians to inhabit the space around our offices. We have developed a sustainable leadership model and have developed a Next Stage Organisation based on self-management of staff, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. Our next step is to share with you the, “ How To,” of this map so you can develop this within your own organisations.
We need to think about wellbeing from a holistic perspective
Wellbeing like climate change does not act as a linear system it is instead a complex system with unpredictable outcomes. When we bring these two worlds together something interesting starts to happen.
We can see the possibility of workplace tree planting initiatives, combining community engagement, exercise, team collaboration and a local climate change agenda. We can see employees building dry stone walls to help prevent fire from spreading which can damage nature and livelihoods. Using this approach will mean you can help bring the community and your business closer together. Creating balance…
There are many environmental initiatives which help to engage employees and create a more balanced working environment. This activity is even more important than ever to keep staff well-being and morale high when people do return to office working after so many businesses have been working remotely. Ensuring your business environment delivers a green space is important but is also essential to identify any potential external forces that may impact your business, employees and local community.
Chris Marshall, Director at Ashfield Solutions said:“ Creating a happy work life balance, focusing on quality rather than quantity is a positive many have taken out of the current pandemic. There is also an increase of organisations talking about sustainability and high-profile individuals stressing during this challenging time we must not forget about the rising threat of climate change which will impact everyone. We must all take positive actions and to repeat the words of Sir David Attenborough “Climate change presents the “biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced.”
“Reducing potential stress points and potential threats to business continuity posed by the rising threat of climate change is something that Ashfield are working hard to support. We have helped thousands of individuals better understand flood risk through expert analysis and tangible forward advice, providing a complete picture of the perils posed and the solutions available. This in turn reflects on the wellbeing of employees because developments such as Gravity are confident that their place of work is not at risk to business interruption from environmental risks which would have a negative and potentially stressful impact on employees. “
Amid the uncertainty of our lives, the landscape for business continues to evolve and tackle challenges such as climate change and our new emerging green economy. Where employees are being asked to return to their former workplaces, this is a chance to make employee wellbeing and environmental sustainability central to the workplace culture.
We are reassessing the need for business travel and offices are being built with green spaces Paul Lowndes from Gravity said, “Gravity is a conscious environment where places to eat, socialise, relax and exercise will be thoughtfully designed, and adventure is on the doorstep. Gravity will be the place to inspire people to do great things.”
We can be inspired to do great things if we think about our businesses and employees as a whole interconnected system and their wellbeing as part of the community to which they live and work. Climate change needs to be the canopy within which all our workplace wellbeing sits to create a sustainable system now and for future generations to come.