When you think about the future, do you think about a sustainable world full of prosperity and hope, or do you envision one that is barren, dried up, and struggles to sustain any form of life? If you’re like most people, you are neither a total optimist nor a complete pessimist; but what can thinking about extreme futures teach us about attitudes, lifestyles, and actions in the present?
What is a Utopian Vision?
Throughout the centuries, great thinkers and artists have depicted utopian visions of the future. The Greek philosopher Socrates is arguably one of the progenitors of utopian visions when he discusses the idea of a society in The Republic. Thomas Moore’s book “Utopia” is also pivotal.
Since individuals and communities are often dissatisfied in some way, it’s only natural to imagine a perfect world. The trouble is that a perfect world is unrealistic outside of fictional boundaries. Utopian visions can be inspiring and exciting, but they can also create issues.
What is a Dystopian Vision?
On the other side of the coin, we have dystopias. Human beings tend to think in extremes, so it is easy to take a negative idea and inflate it in the same way a positive idea can be embellished.
Dystopian visions imagine a world of the future when society has disintegrated for some reason.
As Margaret Atwood points out in an essay in her collection In Other worlds, neither a utopia nor a dystopia exists because one always contains the other. She coins the term Ustopia to describe a positive situation with disturbing elements or a negative situation that has goodness.
Living in the Future
Utopian visions offer us an ideal version of the future; it is something for us to aspire to and use as inspiration to change things in the present - but how effective is this approach? In relation to climate change, our ideal solution is Net Zero by mid-century, followed by the road to recovery.
In some ways, ‘living in the future’ is the best way to find a path towards positive outcomes. In order to live in the future, we need to understand the goals and targets for 2050 and put them into place quickly. Creating a present that adheres to a future vision can bring us closer to it.
Living in the Present
Living in the present is arguably less effective. Most people live in the present - and are often encouraged to do so thanks to the proliferation of meditation and mindfulness. But unless we have an awareness of the deep past and the deep future, we don’t create conditions for change.
Businesses need to open up a sense of deep time and avoid living in the present too much. Business-as-usual might generate profits for shareholders and maintain steady operations, but it’s not a path that will lead to resilience or future prosperity. They need a Net Zero strategy.
Effective Future Planning
Is a utopian vision or a dystopian vision better for future planning and global awareness? A utopian vision offers inspiration, while a dystopian vision gives us motivation. Perhaps we should take a leaf from Atwood’s (many) books and try to walk the middle way to sustainability.
There is a fire in the attic! An electrical panel became overloaded, and no one noticed. Then one day, on their way home, someone did notice something, smoke rising from the roof; they assumed it would go out by itself, and if not, someone else would notice before it was risky.
Since then, the fire has progressed, and the inhabitants of the house have become concerned - they can even smell the smoke and feel the heat. With climate change, we find ourselves in a similar predicament, but we are aware of the fire and our need to act now to begin rebuilding.
Key Takeaways: Climate Change
What is Net Zero and Why Does it Matter?
The future is in our hands! The choices and actions we take in the next two decades could determine the future of the planet, which is in jeopardy - due to accelerated climate change - if we continue with our current trajectories and approaches. But, there is also cause for optimism. The world is waking up, and we are starting to make sustainable changes in the right direction.
Net Zero Definition
Net zero is a global target to completely negate the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by absorbing and reducing carbon emissions. The planet is now 1.1°C hotter than in pre-industrial times - the late 1800s - resulting in melted sea ice, heat waves, and droughts. This is happening at a 1.1°C rise, but we are currently on a trajectory for an over 2°C rise.
Throughout the twentieth century, the warming was gradual, though not invisible, but since 1981, there has been an exponential rise in the planet’s surface temperatures. The year 2022 was the sixth hottest on record, according to NOAA data, and records will continue to break.
Climate Change Consequences
Climate change is caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; these are heat-retaining gases that prevent the incoming sunlight from escaping back into space; they warm the surface of the planet and increase ocean temperatures. The primary greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and ozone.
Of these greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide accounts for almost 65% of the total; the majority of it is produced by human activity through energy production, agriculture, transport, and industry. The consequences are seen in rising sea levels, habitat losses, heat waves and wildfires. Without moving to Net Zero, these consequences will worsen throughout the 21st Century.
The impact of human-made climate change could be catastrophic for human and animal life. Rising sea levels caused by melting land ice will make some regions uninhabitable, and there will be food and water shortages. Human and animal communities will be displaced by rising temperatures, and conflicts are likely to break out over limited resources. But there is still time.
Net Zero Targets
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the planet is on course to increase temperature on average by 2°C in the next few decades, affecting all regions of the earth. Climate change already has a significant impact, causing wildfires, hurricanes, and habitat losses, but the severity of the damage will depend on human carbon emissions.
To move to Net Zero emissions by 2050, human carbon emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 to stay on course; this is a massive challenge for humankind - perhaps the biggest existential threat we have had to face. One key to cutting emissions quickly is resolving our global energy consumption, which accounts for three-quarters of the planet’s overall emissions.
Net Zero Business Changes
Everyone has a part to play if we want to reduce carbon emissions and reach Net Zero by 2050, but businesses and industries produce the majority of greenhouse gases and must be tackled head-on. It’s crucial for businesses of all sizes to make a Net Zero strategy as soon as possible.
Creating a Net Zero company seems like a daunting task, but The Surefoot Effect can help to optimise your business for Net Zero emissions. Creating an effective Net Zero change plan can be done over 3 to 12 months by your own Net Zero team, working with Surefoot consultants.
Net Zero Strategies
When it comes to creating a Net Zero strategy for your business, there are two steps - quick wins followed by significant changes. Quick wins - also known as low-hanging fruit - are the simple adjustments you can make today to reduce emissions, like switching energy providers.
After the quick wins, it’s time to turn your attention to systemic changes that can make you a carbon-neutral organisation. The Surefoot Effect operates a series of in-house workshops, instilling teams with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to develop a tailored action plan.
What is Eco-Anxiety and Why Does it Matter?
Everyone has some anxiety and stress from time to time; it is usually a pattern in their life, like the fear of getting onto a podium and speaking in front of an audience of peers or completing a sizable chunk of work before the deadline. Eco-anxiety is slightly different; it’s the fear you have on lunch break about what’s happening to the planet, a fear calling everything into question.
Eco-anxiety means a chronic fear of environmental doom according to some definitions; it has also been described as the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm. This existential fear is as real as the climate challenges facing the planet, and it can affect life quality and life choices.
Anxiety is caused by fears about the future; which range from mild to severe; but when faced with climate catastrophe and the idea of an uninhabitable planet, the sense of dread is crippling. People with eco-anxiety might experience some sleep disturbances, nervousness, and stress.
Causes of Eco-Anxiety
Eco-anxiety is caused by observing environmental changes caused by climate change; these include more frequent heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and floods; there are also visible habitat changes for animal and plant life. The changes coincide with increased media and lead to a proliferation of catastrophic images in the collective imagination, causing deep fears.
Eco-anxiety - or solastalgia, is still a fairly recent phenomenon. It does not have a place in medical terminology yet, but psychologists around the world are noticing its effects. When fear and confusion are triggered by news of information about climate change or environmental destruction, you are experiencing eco-anxiety, which requires emotional resilience to manage.
Although solastalgia can be experienced in the short term, it is more likely to be a persistent long-term condition with elements of anxiety and depression - it can also be accompanied by other mental health issues. Solastalgia tends to affect people in different ways. Someone predisposed to the condition will experience more distress when they encounter climate news.
That said, there are some signs and symptoms that everyone with solastalgia will experience. There is likely to be anxiety and depression with accompanying thought patterns; despair, distress, and sleeping issues are also common. People with solastalgia might also experience anger - especially towards governments and industries. Emotional resilience is often needed.
Eco-anxiety doesn’t always require an official diagnosis; someone might be aware of their triggers and choose to practice mindfulness or attend an eco-anxiety workshop, but an official diagnosis can be made. A medical professional will look at the primary cause of the distress - media or climate changes in the local area - along with the medical history and symptoms.
Solastalgia is a form of anxiety and is treated in much the same way. What makes the condition slightly different from conventional anxiety is the lack of agency over the cause - it’s not possible to avoid the effects of climate change. A medical professional can prescribe medications for solastalgia, but it can also be treated with mindfulness, CBT, and online community resilience.
Eco-anxiety, solastalgia, climate anxiety: people of any age can be affected by the stark realities of the global situation. That said, children and young adults are very vulnerable groups when it comes to handling the difficult realities that they will have to confront in their futures.
Emotional resilience is crucial. We must not hide the realities of climate change from people; it is counter-productive. Instead, we need to face the scientific data that shows the planet is in crisis to free up the energy needed to process anxious feelings and create the best possible future.
The Importance of Having Future Conversations
The future starts today because the actions we take on a daily basis determine our future happiness and prosperity. This is true in all walks of life, including creating a sustainable planet for future generations. But if we don’t have the conversations, it will be impossible to adapt.
What are Future Conversations?
Have you ever been on a road trip with family or friends? Unless you have a direction in mind or an idea of where you’re going, you are likely to end up somewhere you didn’t intend; by the time you reach your destination, it might be too late. This analogy is also relevant to climate change.
“Future conversations” is a process of developing and implementing ideas about the future that help individuals and communities to create a roadmap for how they would like to live, relate, and work together in a low or zero-carbon world. The conversations also help bring people together.
Eco-anxiety can be crippling, but it can also be enabling. Future conversations replace future fears with future hopes, building resilience and creating a collective vision that can be pursued proactively. In the end, it is better to have a positive, proactive vision than no road map at all.
Nine Planetary Boundaries
Back in 2007, Johan Rockstrom, a director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, developed the nine planetary boundaries - these are limits that must be met to sustain modern life on the planet. The boundaries include climate change, biosphere integrity, and biochemical flows.
Credit: Azote for Stockholm Resilience Centre, based on analysis in Wang-Erlandsson et al. 2022 More information The “novel entities” planetary boundary encapsulates all toxic and long-lived substances that humans release into the environment — from heavy metals and radioactive waste to industrial chemicals and pesticides, even novel living organisms Biochemical Flows are Phosphorus and Nitrogen - essential for farming Biosphere integrity refers to species loss; e/msy = extinction per mammal species years - technical measurement of extinct rate
In January 2015, Rockstum stated that the planet had moved past four of the nine boundaries needed to maintain stability; as of 2022, it is thought to be six. But Rockstrom’s message is not a doomsday one; the planetary boundary system is an efficient way to gauge how well the world is adapting to a sustainable future. Current performance is poor, but systems exist to improve it.
Resilience and the Future
Bringing the planet back from the brink of disaster and onto a more steady and sustainable footing will require emotional resilience and future conversations. Through decades of inaction and business as usual, the planet has reached a point where the climate is changing very rapidly; species are going extinct, and ecosystems are being lost at increasingly alarming rates.
In order to navigate this perilous course through the 21st Century, governments, businesses, and individuals must recognise the realities of climate change and channel any fearful energy into positive action. Climate action takes place at all levels of society, from governments creating greener infrastructure to businesses using less energy and the everyday changes of individuals.
At one time, people and nature were inseparable, but then agriculture happened for better or for worse, and suddenly, nature was used as a means to an end. Through the centuries, there have been attempts to reconnect with nature - eg, the Romantic movement in the 18th century - but it is needed now more than ever. Connecting with nature and animals again can inspire our future.
When it comes to climate change, our minds ping-pong between positive outcomes and catastrophic consequences. We know that we want a sustainable, thriving planet to live on, but our human habits are not creating this future - it’s the opposite. A dystopian vision can offer a cautionary tale, but a utopian vision is powerful: it is a collective long-term vision for the future.
To continue our analogy, the house fire is upon us. There is black smoke billowing at the top of the staircase, and the walls are becoming hot to the touch, but there is still plenty we can do to save our home. Using the visions, technologies, and creativity of the collective, humans can find a way to collaborate with the planet, reduce consumption, and then build a progressive future.
What are the 5 main effects of climate change?
At present, we can notice at least 5 tangible effects of climate change; these include record temperatures, heatwaves and wildfires, hurricanes and flooding, sea levels and melting ice.
What will happen if climate change keeps going?
If we do nothing to stop climate change, the 5 main effects will worsen and become more extreme. We can also expect there to be food shortages, geopolitical conflict, and displacement.
What does it mean to have a Net Zero planet?
A Net Zero planet is one that is in balance; it means that human-produced carbon emissions are lessened to the point where they can be reabsorbed by the planet through trees, technology, and the ocean. It is not in the atmosphere.
Your Net Zero Plan for Business
The majority of businesses understand the need for carbon reduction and Net Zero efforts. But there is a difference between knowing you have something to do and putting an effective plan in place that will help you reach your targets and future-proof your business. Designing and implementing a Net Zero plan is not straightforward; it requires collaboration and creativity.
Assess Current Emissions
Today, businesses understand that reducing carbon emissions is a high priority, but that doesn’t make the process any simpler or faster. In order for the world to reach the UN's goal of Net Zero by 2050, carbon emissions need to be halved by 2030, so action needs to happen quickly.
While it would be nice for businesses to be able to access a convenient step-by-step guide to decarbonization, the journey to carbon zero is holistic and idiosyncratic. Businesses need to take account of their current carbon emissions, taking care of the low-hanging fruit first before turning their attention to long-term strategies that meet science-backed climate change targets.
Research Official Targets
It is a decisive decade for decarbonizing the planet and securing positive outcomes for the future; that’s why science-based targets are non-negotiable when implementing a carbon-neutral plan. With so much information available, how can businesses make decisions?
There are a number of science-backed climate tools available to help you understand the impact of your business on climate targets, but you can also create a viable assessment of your company with a Net Zero consultation that aims for quick wins followed by substantial changes.
Identify Areas for Change
After deciding to make your business Net Zero, you can make progress fast. Most businesses emit more carbon than necessary on a daily basis, so quick wins are possible. These initial changes include things like energy procurement, employee travel habits, and purchasing items.
Again, the journey to Net Zero for any business is by no means linear; in fact, the journey is more of a holistic effort to identify and address the areas of concern in the company infrastructure. For best results, you should work with a climate professional for 12 months.
Build a Long Term Strategy
In order to meet climate targets of reducing net carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, two things need to happen, huge volumes of carbon need to be extracted from the atmosphere, and reducing emissions from businesses and households. Start building a long-term strategy now.
A long-term Net Zero strategy should be effective in the short term and flexible enough to adapt to changes over time. A long-term strategy is thought to be the best way to meet climate targets; it involves a long-term vision, sustainable development, adaption elements, and sector changes.
Learn More About Net Zero
Implementing a Net Zero strategy is very important, but maintaining standards and relevance over time is equally important. A Net Zero strategy is not a set-and-forget situation, especially since the criteria are now changing annually following the COP Conferences. Stay up-to-date on climate change news and insights at The Surefoot Effect, and contact us to discuss your Net Zero strategy.
Carbon offsetting is a controversial topic; on the one hand, it seems to offer workable solutions to the climate crisis, allowing people to use their services and reduce carbon emissions; on the other hand, it can be used as a gateway to greenwashing and false advertising. The reality lies somewhere in the middle; carbon offsetting has some merit when coupled with Net Zero efforts.
Key Takeaways: Carbon Offsetting
What is Carbon Offsetting?
Carbon offsetting is a simple concept, CO2 produced by industry, transport, and markets goes into the atmosphere and contributes to the greenhouse effect, but this carbon can be reabsorbed back into the earth with additional trees planted in forests, investments in renewable energy, and supporting people in the Global South to develop sustainable communities. It’s quite a nice idea.
The trouble is carbon offsetting is difficult to measure and often ineffective; at the same time, it makes individuals and businesses feel as though they are doing something to support Net Zero efforts when the opposite could be the case. Research by ProPublica has shown that many of the additional trees planted for carbon offsetting were planned to be planted in forests anyway.
Tree Planting is Inefficient
Many of the world's major carbon-heavy brands, such as Shell, BP, and EasyJet, passionately support carbon offsetting programs in the forests of Brazil. That’s not surprising since carbon offsetting allows them to continue their business-as-usual model sustaining profits by selling products to ethically-minded consumers. Tree planting can reduce carbon, but only a fraction.
The earth’s forests are critical to maintaining the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but planting trees to offset carbon is not the efficient machine the world needs to slash carbon emissions and reach Net Zero targets. A newly-planted tree can take up to twenty years to absorb the amount of carbon promised in the carbon offsetting programs people buy.
Issues With Climate Justice
Climate justice - or climate injustice - is the dynamic between countries with high carbon emissions and countries affected by climate change. Climate justice can take other forms, too; it’s estimated that people born today will have to emit eight times less carbon than their grandparents to stay with the 1.5-degree target. Climate justice is an important consideration.
It is easier, cheaper, and more effective for big-name brands to set up carbon-offsetting programs in the Global South, but this comes at the expense of the local communities who might use the land to serve their own needs. These carbon offsetting initiatives can compromise the rights of indigenous people and depose them of their ancestral land in the worst cases.
Carbon Offsetting and PR
Carbon offsetting is excellent PR; it allows companies to present an ethical front and continue with business as usual. At the same time, carbon offsetting gives consumers peace of mind when transacting with companies since they get a service and make a green contribution. While it’s not completely ineffective, decisive action is needed to reduce carbon emissions directly.
It is now time for companies to move on from carbon offsetting arrangements in favour of carbon-reduction trajectories. The upside is that these efforts are also good for PR in the modern world. Businesses need to define low emissions thresholds and create workable decarbonisation strategies, with continued support for reforesting and rewilding communities.
Alternatives to Carbon Offsetting
When it comes to the climate emergency, every little count, even the small efforts people make on a daily basis to reduce carbon emissions, make a difference. There’s no doubt that carbon offsetting has a part to play, but consumers need to be aware of the dangers and alternatives.
If you are unsure about the green credentials of a company, you can always pursue your own offsetting agenda and source a transparent and responsible company or charity to invest in. In short, it’s always better to reduce personal carbon than to hand responsibility to the big brands.
Some Final Thoughts
Whether you are a business or an individual, you need to think about your carbon footprint and the impact your lifestyle is having. Small changes can make a big difference to your personal carbon emissions on the global journey to Net Zero in 2050. Find out more about how to make your business Net Zero by attending a Net Zero workshop or partnering with a climate mentor.
How Greenwashing backfires
Around 61% of UK consumers consider themselves conscious consumers, who are either concerned or very concerned about their consumption choices. For this reason, many businesses are “going green”, but how accurate and responsible are the claims? Greenwashing is a problem, but conscious consumers are starting to see the reality, causing it to backfire.
Greenwashing undermines the brand
Making bold claims about green credentials, such as materials and supply chains, might shift a few units in the short term, but when the business is found out, there is a backlash that can seriously damage the brand's image affecting sales and even the future of the business overall.
There is a growing desire amongst consumers to buy sustainable products, so if someone finds out that a product has been mis-sold, they will abandon the brand; not only that, they will leave negative customer reviews online and share the negative customer experience on social media.
Conscious consumers support genuine Net Zero progress
Consumers are more and more ecologically minded, which is good news for the 2050 Net Zero targets; it’s not such good news for businesses and brands who might cringe at the expense of going greener. Still, with nine out of ten consumers on board, it could be worth the investment.
Capitalism primarily values profits which is why businesses are tempted to cut corners with sustainability in a process called greenwashing. But conscious consumers are not blind to this and will quickly abandon a business that claims to be green in the interests of greater profits.
The business spreads misinformation
The effects of greenwashing on a business go beyond the sales figures; it can also lead to legal issues when a false advert is reported to the relevant consumer protection authority. In this case, an investigation will be launched to determine whether the business advert is legitimate.
An investigation like this might lead to positive outcomes; the authority might determine that the business advert conforms to standards and accuracy claims, but that is unlikely to remain in the minds of conscious consumers who only remember the business was strung for greenwashing.
The business can struggle to find investment
When a business greenwashes, it does not only affect itself; it also affects partner businesses and investors. Businesses and investors may not wish to engage with a business that greenwashes attempting to protect its own reputation, so partners and investors can pull out.
Not only can a business lose investment thanks to greenwashing, but it can also struggle to find new partners. Investors and businesses are affected by brand affiliation - in the same way as conscious consumers - meaning a damaged business can find it hard to rebuild its reputation.
Greenwashing isn’t needed - find out why!
The capitalistic mindset values profit over people, but making a business more sustainable is now in the best interests of a business. Due to greenwashing, truly sustainable brands are enjoying better growth making it more sensible to transform business protocol. Find out more about making your business more sustainable, profitable, and protecting it for years to come.
Energy efficiency in community spaces
As well as businesses and private properties, churches, community centres and schools need to be part of the climate change solution and journey towards a Net Zero world. The UK has 300,000 public buildings that contribute 3% of carbon emissions to the atmosphere, but reducing this can be a challenge because of the way traditional buildings have been designed.
Community spaces include community centres, libraries, parks, community gardens, and more. While there is no need to worry about thermal comfort in a community garden - at least not the kind that requires carbon emissions - it is a concern for indoor community spaces of all kinds.
Public sector bodies as well as businesses need to quickly embrace Net Zero targets since 3% of the UK's carbon emissions come from its 300,000 properties. But balancing thermal comfort with Net Zero can be tricky as old buildings are not energy efficient, nor is their general usage.
Of course, community spaces are crucial to the wellbeing of society, they create a place where local people can connect, communicate, plan, and resource themselves for the present and the future; but often, these spaces have inefficient energy usage for their infrequent gatherings.
It’s important that community members are comfortable during meetings and gatherings so the buildings need to sustain their heat and lights for longer than is strictly necessary; so focusing on decarbonising community spaces is a key feature of Net Zero efforts in the UK and beyond.
Net Zero Efforts
In order to reach Net Zero by 2050, global carbon emissions and greenhouse gases need to be reduced by 45%. If the greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 45% in this time frame global temperatures will remain at 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels societies in the late 1800s.
Achieving this goal will help the planet and its citizens to avoid the worst effects of climate change, but it won’t be easy. In order to reduce emissions by this substantial margin, the world of commerce, public bodies, and individual people need to unite and support Net Zero efforts.
One of the fundamentals of Net Zero efforts is energy efficiency. Every time someone switches on the heating in a home, office, or public building they are using energy in the form of heat or electricity that requires carbon to produce. It’s important that we use this energy economically.
Community spaces are an indispensable part of local societies, but they also need to contribute to Net Zero efforts and the drive towards the UN’s 2050 target. The good news is, there are several ways that community spaces can do more to reduce emissions and save on energy.
Traditional buildings like churches, community centres, and schools can be hard to move to Net Zero because of their designs; that said, partnering with The Surefoot Effect and HeatHack is a practical way forward. The Surefoot Effect and HeatHack are offering a program to community operators to help them create energy efficiency practices and thermal comfort in their buildings.
The Wellbeing Economy - 5 Key Elements
The Wellbeing Economy is a movement for transforming the existing economic systems to support the wellbeing of people and planet, instead of wealth creation and environmental depredation. This theory of change can also be a powerful driving force towards Net Zero success. Find out more about the elements of the Wellbeing Economy and why it matters.
Until recently, the world used a linear economy predominantly, which is a system of production and waste. In the linear economy, raw materials and collected and turned into products that are sold through supply chains to consumers. When they are used, they move to landfills as waste.
The linear economy is wasteful and carbon-heavy; it is not in line with people and planet and does not support Net Zero efforts. Although it is not perfect, the circular economy is more sustainable. A circular economy values sharing, reusing, recycling, and reducing consumption.
In order to reach the UN's target of Net Zero by 2050, individuals, businesses, and public organisations have a part to play; at the same time, the Wellbeing Economy needs to maintain dignity and ensure that everyone has enough resources to exist comfortably on the planet.
When it comes to energy efficiency, it's the responsibility of governments to ensure that renewable energy and other Net Zero technologies are funded and accessible to the general public; that said, individuals and businesses can support Net Zero efforts with internal choices.
Eco anxiety is a fear about the future of the planet based on what we now know about climate change and the effects of carbon in the atmosphere. Eco anxiety can affect anyone, but it's more likely to affect people with more knowledge of the climate crises and the realities facing us.
While eco-anxiety sounds adverse, it can also be used as motivation to support Net Zero efforts, sustainability, and the Wellbeing Economy. Eco-anxiety can be challenging to manage and affects productivity; that's why businesses and organisations can benefit from peer support.
Food is a necessary part of the economy, but the ways it is produced, distributed, and consumed have an impact on people and the planet. Large-scale food production accounts for one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions globally, including distribution and refrigeration.
Again, creating a more sustainable food system requires structural changes like sustainable farming practices, food waste reduction, and animal welfare, but individuals have a part to play in the choices they make when they visit supermarkets to support more ethical food production.
While eco-anxiety is part of mental health in the Wellbeing Economy, it is not the only factor. Society has unfolded in ways that support consumerism and wealth accumulation, not physical, emotional, and mental wellness. The Wellbeing Economy is about changing these dynamics.
Putting the welfare of people and animals at the heart of society is the best way to adjust priorities and create a fairer, more sustainable world. When people are valued over wealth, it changes society's mechanics, improves mental health and harmonises the people and planet.
COP 27 and the Journey to Net Zero
Does your business have a Net Zero strategy yet? If not, it’s only a matter of time before you have to think seriously about implementing one. The UN has stepped up its efforts to meet global targets and small businesses have a big part to play. Becoming part of the solution not part of the problem improves brand recognition, revenue expectations, and future resilience.
Net Zero Targets
Net Zero - the point at which the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted across industries and other greenhouse gases (GHG) - is the same as the emissions captured by the planet and various technologies. The UN hopes to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C by 2050.
In 2015, The Paris Agreement was signed by 193 countries that committed to the UN's target, in 2021 the same parties agreed to step up efforts and meet every year instead of every five. Data shows a downward trend, but we are still on track for 2.5 degrees C by the end of the century.
Climate Change Conference
Cop 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt built on some of the commitments and ideas discussed a year earlier in Glasgow. It is the largest gathering of political leaders, climate activists, and business CEOs in the world, and it’s important for all businesses to take action.
Some of the critical issues covered in the climate conference include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience in business communities, adapting to the impacts of climate change, and finding finance to fund climate action. It’s clear more action is needed for results.
More Action Needed
Digging into numbers is useful for official figures but it doesn’t help businesses at a grassroots level, how can ordinary businesses implement the right changes and measure them to be sure they are on track? First, they need to commit to creating a progressive Net Zero strategy.
Implementing a Net Zero strategy is not always straightforward, much of the success depends on understanding the nature of the business and what is needed to achieve Net Zero results. To achieve Net Zero status a business must have emissions reductions of 95% and offset the rest.
Research shows that while 50% of UK businesses are aware of the government's Net Zero targets 76% of them have yet to implement a Net Zero strategy. It’s concerning because 50% of UK emissions are generated by small businesses. So what is their motivation to meet Net Zero?
Apart from the obvious planetary consequences of “business as usual” there is also a commercial gain. In a changing marketplace where consumers value ethical products and green supply chains, businesses can improve their reputation, reduce costs, and create resilience.
Net Zero for Teams
Implementing a Net Zero strategy is not as simple as it sounds, it requires transforming the internal workings of the business to align with government standards. Net Zero for Teams is a program that can help your business implement solutions to achieve Net Zero in the short term; this makes your business more sustainable, resilient and helps to improve your bottom line.
‘Carbon credits’, ‘carbon trading’, ‘cap and trade’, ‘carbon neutrality’ and ‘carbon offsetting’. The technical, complicated and distant words might have been created with noble intentions when put into plans at government and corporate levels. But one might question if the various terms come down to finding ways to keep emitting carbon and other greenhouse gases even though the ‘environmental waste bin’ is overflowing. How to find effective approaches to tackle climate change in a jungle of abstract measurements?
Have you ever been offered to carbon offset when travelling or when buying things? Be aware that many of these can’t equal out the polluting effect. We have to view it from a planet view, the ecosystem we all are a part of, not through economic regulations.
“We cannot offset our way out of climate change,” states John Oliver in his satirical program Carbon Offsets. Behind the light-hearted, sarcastic approach the British-American comedian, writer, and political commentator has a serious message: Corporates can’t keep polluting with greenhouse gas emissions under the concept of offsetting. The expression ‘carbon offsetting’ is not only integrated into the corporate world, but we are now getting offers to join in on an individual level. But there’s simply not enough room on the planet for planting ‘good deeds’ like trees, elsewhere on the planet, to compensate for the way we live. The offset system puts profits over the natural world and its dynamics and functions. The equation does not add up, we have to focus on reducing greenhouse gasses.
Planetary or economic rules?
We have lived on borrowed time for a while, based on the rules of free-market economics and consumption. But how much more deforestation and climate change stoking can we do with one hand, while offsetting with the other hand via schemes often not as efficient as claimed?
As Greenpeace writes in the article ‘The biggest problem with carbon offsetting is that it doesn’t really work’ that to be serious about tackling climate change, carbon emissions need to be stopped from getting into the atmosphere in the first place. As they say, “A newly-planted tree can take as many as 20 years to capture the amount of CO2 that a carbon-offset scheme promises. We would have to plant and protect a massive number of trees for decades to offset even a fraction of global emissions. Even then, there is always the risk that these efforts will be wiped out by droughts, wildfires, tree diseases and deforestation.”
It doesn’t help that the system isn’t transparent and standardised, “… there is no standardised way to trade carbon credits and no way to verify the compensating activity behind them,” as the article ‘What’s wrong with carbon offsetting?’ in The Week points out.
Developed countries’ exploitation of lesser developed countries’ natural resources have been known about for some time. The 2014 article ‘The carbon World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme 'complicit' in genocidal land grabs – NGOs’ states that, “Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations.”
The article points out flaws in the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme, including ‘financing REDD+ readiness activities.’ In this programme, companies in the developed world purchase carbon credits to invest in reducing emissions from forested lands. This is viewed as carbon emissions’ reductions. ”In practice, however, REDD schemes largely allow those companies to accelerate pollution [via their own industry] while purchasing land and resources in the developing world at bargain prices.” These schemes also reduce indigenous peoples’ access and rights to their forests.
Furthermore, the goal of carbon offsetting isn’t functional in practice. According to the article ‘Cop26’s worst outcome would be giving the green light to carbon offsetting’,“… offsetting doesn’t stop carbon entering the atmosphere and warming our world, it just keeps it off the ledgers of the governments and companies responsible. According to the Institute for Applied Ecology, about eight out of 10 offsetting projects rich countries relied on to meet their climate targets under the Kyoto protocol were deemed unlikely to have delivered any climate benefit. Offsetting has been tried and it has failed – to pursue this as a solution now is nothing more than greenwashing and would blow a huge hole in the Paris agreement.”
Economic aspects are often given attention in the media and on political agendas. We wish to bring focus on balancing the way humans live with the rest of the natural world, which supports us in so many ways. This could be the interwoven connectedness which is explored in deep ecology, an environmental movement regarding human life as one of many equal components of a global ecosystem. It’s not just a philosophical approach, but it’s the physical world and its laws we live with. A Global Footprint Report from WWF-UK and 3Keel’s concludes, “… the UK must reduce its global footprint by three quarters by 2030 to meet planetary limits.”
In the article ‘Carbon offsetting is not warding off environmental collapse – it’s accelerating it’, the Natural Climate Solution Campaign is mentioned as a tool to draw attention to the need of revival of ecosystems in a time of climate breakdown.
Focus on reducing emissions where you are
Even though it might feel out of our hands as citizens when the frame for climate change actions needs to be set on a societal level, we can still contribute. Being critical, choosing your products and lifestyle carefully and writing your elected representatives, encouraging action, are some of the things we can each do. In Scotland the majority of people acknowledge that climate change is related to human activities, but is that always taken into account when voting? When looking into election material, the standpoint of politicians on the matter is not always clear. Could it be that MSPs and MPs need a reminder from us on why climate change is important for us and our vote?
Not only do we vote at elections. What we put in the shopping cart, our means of transportation and where we go on holiday are also choices which influence market forces, and they are directly linked to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
Net Zero is another term often used on a societal level. It’s “…a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere.” (https://netzeroclimate.org/what-is-net-zero/)
The Scottish Government has a goal of reaching Net Zero on a national level by 2045. There are governmental supported initiatives such as funding opportunities, but how to get to Net Zero can still seem unclear. It’s a path not yet rolled out but still in the making as we go forward.
At Surefoot, when we work toward Net Zero with organisations, the focus is on how to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions and to build resilience to thrive at the same time. Read more about Net Zero with Surefoot, or please get in touch if you want to hear more.
Please contact us, if you have a story to share about dealing with reducing greenhouse gas emissions in your community and how you strengthen your ability for resilience. On Insights we share opportunities and examples, to inspire and motivate each other in climate friendly activities. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have story to share.
Text by Gazelle Buchholtz, Surefoot associate.
If you live in the UK and want to visit a rainforest, you don’t have to catch a flight to find one. Scotland is home to its own Atlantic rainforest.
“The west of Scotland is home to one of the most important remaining rainforest sites in Europe, with its rich diversity of species making it internationally important.” Rainforest action, Scottish Government.
Last year, the Scottish Government decided to support the restoration and expansion of the rainforest and is engaging with the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests.
Like most natural habitats these forests are also in need of protection. Nitrogen pollution, exotic conifer plantation and other factors put pressure on the habitat including its plants and animals. Facing a climate emergency, the government also acknowledges the importance of forest and woodland capabilities to absorb more than 6 million tonnes of CO2 every year. This is equivalent to almost 10% of Scotland’s gross greenhouse gas emissions, states the Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Mairi McAllan in the Scottish Governments Rainforest Action. Furthermore, Mairi McAllan says: “As world leaders commit to end deforestation by 2030, we are planting 80% of the UK’s trees and making bold commitments like this to protect and enhance Scotland’s own temperate rainforest.
“Our ambitions do not stop there. We have increased our new woodland creation targets from 12,000 hectares a year to 18,000 hectares by 2024/5. By then, we will be planting 36 million new trees every year in Scotland.”
Every action counts - also outside the rainforest
At Surefoot we welcome the initiative and are looking forward to seeing the outcome of the plans. There’s certainly a need to support the natural world, high biodiversity and areas with tree cover to prevent temperatures rising - in short to take care of the living beings and resources we have on the planet.
In other areas - including in our daily life - there are several ways to reduce CO2 emissions and aim for Net Zero. If you would like to know how your organisation can reach Net Zero, check out Surefoot’s Net Zero for Teams or get in touch with us.
Scottish Renewable’s Energy consumption by sector points to building heating as the highest energy consumption in Scotland which causes a large amount of CO2 emissions, so improved energy efficiency in buildings is critical. If you are involved in a community building, you can apply for free help from HeatHack and Surefoot. Read more here: Energy Efficiency in Community Buildings.
When we reuse, repair, recycle and rethink ways of handling our personal resources, we are also supporting the Planet’s capacity, natural habitats and resources. We recently ran a workshop in partnership with Transition Stirling to show how being creative (in this case with reuse) can build both individual and community resilience. For more about building resilience for your community, please see our Resilience workshops which have been informed by both our recent Erasmus+ Breakthrough for Resilience Project and National Lottery funding for a previous project.
Text and photo by Gazelle Buchholtz, Surefoot associate.
Creativity = resilience
SAT 20 AUG, 11am-4pm
Drop-in to the Transition Stirling ReUse Hub and learn about how being creative helps build resilience in free crafting sessions.
Surefoot's Erasmus + 3 year adult education project, Breakthrough for Resilience, has helped us learn a lot about building resilience. One of the themes that became very obvious was that working creatively, individually or in groups, is key to our well-being and therefore key to building our resilience as individuals and communities.
So what better place to hold our final event than the Transition Stirling ReUse Hub where community comes together to reuse creatively?
During the day, there will be several makers on hand to help you explore a craft technique using materials that would otherwise have been discarded. And, we will be sharing the insights gained on this project about building individual, community and place-based resilience.
So please drop in to find out more and to reuse creatively, building both your resilience and that of the community. Register here to help us gauge numbers and have enough refreshments.
Find out more and book your place >>
Net Zero in community buildings
APPLY NOW! Do you want to improve energy efficiency, thermal comfort AND move to net zero in your community space?
HeatHack and The Surefoot Effect are offering a programme for community groups to help plan for the futures of their churches, halls and community centres.
Tackling heat loss and energy efficiency in community buildings, Surefoot working in collaboration with HeatHack is delighted to announce confirmation of an Ingenious Public Engagement Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering.
For this project, a small team of people from across Surefoot and HeatHack will be working together to deliver a programme to help UK-based churches and community buildings to understand what a net zero future means for their premises. It will help them not just understand energy efficiency and thermal comfort in difficult buildings, but also to think about how their buildings should be used in their local contexts and how to make this change happen.
Groups will emerge from the process with a shared vision, the knowledge and confidence to work well with architects, heating engineers and other professionals, and the evidence of community need that grant funders require.
We are recruiting community groups and volunteer engineers NOW for sessions starting September – December 2022.
Find out more and apply >>
More about the programme
Please contact email@example.com to arrange a conversation about how you can get involved, if you would like to participate either by forming a group or as an assisting engineer.
The project is funded by Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious programme.
Net Zero - Why and how?
As part of tackling climate change Scotland has set a goal of becoming Net Zero by 2045. Net Zero can sound technical and seem an abstract goal. We will reach Net Zero when the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we put into the atmosphere are equal to the amount we take out of the atmosphere. In short, aiming for Net Zero is about engaging in climate friendly activities - which often are not only healthy for people and planet, but also for the economy, for example when saving energy in your organisation. Our programme Net Zero for Teams will support your journey towards Net Zero.
Net Zero for Teams in your organisation
Starting or accelerating your transition to a carbon neutral business may seem daunting. What does operating as a Net Zero business look like for your organisation? Rest assured, with Surefoot’s Net Zero for Teams, your decision-making and transition will be quicker, smoother and more straightforward than you think. As with all successful strategies for change, it starts with you and your team using your expertise to decide what is right for your organisation.
How it works
Surefoot’s Net Zero for Teams workshops are a mix of information sharing, identifying areas for change and an exploration of possible solutions. In between the workshops, Surefoot supports your team to help finalise the actions needed to achieve their chosen objectives. See more here.
Please contact us if you would like to know more.
Growth is an outdated term: instead, businesses must focus on sustainability and meeting Net Zero targets. Build a sustainable, resilient business with The Surefoot Effect.
Making changes to your business and turning the tide of climate change can seem like a daunting task, especially when you don't know where to start. The Surefoot Effect offers a series of courses, training programs, and workshops to help businesses equip themselves for a more sustainable future. Read on to find out how to make your business more planet-friendly.
Chances are you have a carbon output for your business that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, but it's not as if you can flick a switch and your business becomes sustainable. It takes time and careful planning to work towards Net Zero by mid-century - this is the global aim.
With Carbon Conversations, you can begin to discuss the issues at hand and work out how to integrate progressive thinking into your business model. Carbon Conversations at The Surefoot Effect is a series of guided discussions to help you with sustainable business planning.
The future starts today! That's because the choices we make in our present time and our lifestyle practices echo down through the ages. People's choices in the past have caused the climate crisis today, but now, we have an opportunity to build a better future.
The Surefoot Effect offers a series of workshops on the subject of future conversations. These workshops aim to equip businesses with the foresight to implement changes that lead to progressive outcomes."Future Conversations" is the smart way to make a difference.
Team Engagement Training
Net Zero by mid-century is the target and the way to get there through sustainability practices. The next decade is crucial to the success of maintaining a 1.5°C rise above pre-industrial levels; to achieve this, businesses must change their paradigms and balance their carbon outputs.
Again, this isn't an easy task, especially if you lack qualified persons in your management teams; but, thankfully, there's an easy solution. The Surefoot Effect offers a Team Engagement programme that provides the tools needed to help businesses operate more sustainably.
The Surefoot Effect
It is worthwhile to think about our individual contributions to climate change, but it won't be enough to turn the tide and reach Net Zero by mid-century. For that, we need commercial interests to pull their weight as well. The Surefoot Effect is here to help - use their workshops and courses to equip your business for a more sustainable and prosperous future.
By James Bollen
James Bollen is a digital writer and content creator. He writes articles and blogs in a wide range of niches including business and technology but has a particular interest in conscious living practices, nature appreciation, and creative pursuits. He lives in Glasgow with his partner and sibling cats, Hansel and Gretel.
Net Zero is a challenge facing companies of all sizes, but becoming planet-friendly doesn’t have to be expensive; in fact, it can benefit your business
We’ve all sat in the cinema eating popcorn watching the latest Hollywood disaster movie. The characters have to contend with a giant city-levelling wave, a twister that threatens a small town or a story of future scarcity with humanity living on the brink of extinction. Unfortunately, these scenarios have become too realistic in the face of climate change, now we are the protagonists.
What is Net Zero?
Anthropogenic climate change is the rise in global temperatures as a result of human activity. Most scientists agree that this began in the 19th century (around the 1830s), right at the start of the industrial era. However, evidence is emerging that earlier human activity also had an effect.
Humans need energy for heat and light which comes from fossilised carbon. Over time, the earth absorbed carbon from the air and stored it in ground deposits, humans now release it back into the air. Net Zero is the balance between carbon emissions and carbon absorption.
The Paris Climate Agreement
In 2015, 196 parties signed up to the Paris Agreement, also known as the climate accord, at COP 21. The parties agreed to a climate change target; global temperatures should not exceed 2°C by mid-century with a target of 1.5°C rise temperatures in relation to pre-industrial levels.
The Paris Agreement works in 5-year cycles; each cycle has increasingly ambitious targets leading to a reduction in carbon output and stabilisation of temperatures. For this to happen, countries and industries are expected to make adequate changes to their carbon emissions.
Make Your Company Planet Friendly
Multi-national companies such as Amazon and Microsoft have made ambitious pledges. Amazon says it can reach Net Zero by 2040, and Microsoft aims to do it by 2030. It remains to be seen how realistic and authentic these pledges are, but every business needs to change.
It’s not only global giants that are expected to implement changes to reduce emissions; businesses of all sizes can contribute to carbon neutrality. Regardless of your company size, the task is to measure your “climate shadow”, including past emissions, and work towards Net-Zero.
The Upside of Company Changes
When it comes to business, it’s all about the bottom line, so when managers and CEOs hear about climate change policy, the first thing they ask is, how much is it going to cost? There’s good news, becoming Net Zero involves efficiency changes that ac increase your revenue.
Cost reduction and increased efficiency are two of the upsides of Net Zero targets, but there’s more. The next ten years are crucial to turning the tide on climate change, and everyone knows it! Customers are likely to respond to companies making genuine efforts towards Net Zero.
The Surefoot Effect
Every business is different, and achieving Net Zero requires focus and creativity. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why The Surefoot Effect Net Zero programme help your business to build the Net Zero infrastructure it needs. Contact The Surefoot Effect today and learn more about the dynamic and proven strategies they use to cut carbon in your company.
By James Bollen
James Bollen is a digital writer and content creator. He writes articles and blogs in a wide range of niches including business and technology but has a particular interest in conscious living practices, nature appreciation, and creative pursuits. He lives in Glasgow with his partner and sibling cats, Hansel and Gretel.
Here’s a collection of some of our articles which have been in our newsletters or published elsewhere.
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The Surefoot Effect equips people, communities and organisations with skills for sustainability and resilience.