4
min read

For NetZero, We must start talking about behavioural changes.

NetZero is not only technology, it has a large human component

Reducing our carbon footprint will require both a shift in our collective and individual habits toward self-sufficiency and improvements in carbon capture and storage technology. Changing behavior is difficult, and people don't like change, so corporations and governments often favor the technological levers, but in reality, we need both.

While it's encouraging to see new technologies emerge, it's unfortunate that some businesses are content to wait for miracle technologies to fix the damage we've wrought over the years. Companies need to start having honest conversations about changing employee behavior now, rather than waiting for the next disaster to serve as a catalyst, and to do so while also adopting more virtuous technologies.

Corporate sustainability for behavior change

Corporations can play a role in both technological innovation and behavioral shifts, but they each present their own unique challenges.

Think back five years and try to have a rational discussion about the environmental benefits of telecommuting. Such a discussion would have required a lot of time and energy. However, with this newfound background information, businesses can investigate these shifts in consumer behavior. There's no need to wait for another disruption to force the same self-reflection on other facets of business practice.

Business decisions and discussions must increasingly prioritize carbon implications. The infrastructure is in place for businesses to alter their practices regarding business travel, office equipment power usage, email attachment policies (employ cloud links instead), and the use of the "reply all" button (do not use this feature unless absolutely necessary). I know that these levers seem laughably small in comparison to the difficulty of the task at hand, but I am confident that there will be far-reaching consequences if we even consider altering our current ways of behaving. It will cause people to reevaluate how they live their lives and how they spend and invest their money. Indeed, this is an absolute necessity.

The pace and scope of technology-driven disruption will vary considerably across industries. Opportunities to adopt mature technologies and finance emerging ones exist everywhere. Putting all of your faith in technological advancements to solve all of your problems is probably a bad idea. A company's sustainability journey will be aided by the fact that, as investments are made, carbon usage drops and costs continue to decline. Renewable energy sources have seen a decline in this regard.

Organization to organization, norms and tools will look different. To reduce their carbon footprint, businesses must rethink how they operate in fundamental ways. A carbon-first mentality is necessary for behavior change because carbon should be seen as a leading indicator, not a lagging one, and because new tools, such as carbon budgets, should be used to dictate behavior and evaluate success.

Personal Climate Responsibility And Government Action

Governments will be on the front lines of dealing with the effects of climate change, providing aid to those citizens who will be hit hardest by the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather.

Limiting emissions or phasing out carbon-heavy technologies (like internal combustion engines) are two examples of how the government can use regulation as a tool to change behavior. The younger generations, who are demanding action on climate change, are becoming the most powerful voting bloc, so state and local governments have an incentive to proactively implement climate-conscious regulations anyway.

Fairness in every regulation and investment must be taken into account, which presents a significant obstacle to effective government action. Disproportionate burdens imposed by regulations on the most helpless can hurt public support and waste money from the public coffers. These effects must also be given due consideration.

When it comes to individual actions, the Earth does not distinguish between the emissions of individuals and those of corporations. Changes in individual behavior and the widespread adoption of cutting-edge technologies can have a significant impact on global warming because every gram of carbon dioxide kept out of the air is a good thing. You can make a difference by taking advantage of rebates and tax credits, switching to electric vehicles, going solar, and using energy-efficient appliances by default.

Individuals can have a significant impact by influencing businesses and governments, in addition to reducing their own carbon footprint through measures such as reducing air travel, reducing meat consumption, and other lifestyle changes. One person can affect change in their community by using their purchasing power, their influence at work, or their voice at the polls.

Integration of Human Action and Machines

On the road to Net Zero, technological progress is important, but so is changing our habits.

For these and other reasons, it's not uncommon for people to simply avoid discussing the need for behavioral shifts, or to instead focus on extreme solutions that aren't likely to gain traction or face substantial barriers to adoption. We have been led to believe that our only two options are complete inaction or a complete upheaval of the status quo.

But there is a third way and a compromise that allows people to feel comfortable making small changes without worrying that they aren't doing enough. The mere fact that people begin altering their habits would have a significant effect.

To ensure we avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must begin conversations about the meaningful behavioral changes that will make a huge difference, as well as adopt appropriate technologies and exert influence over others, including businesses and governments.

Gautam Bakshi

Head of Product & Engineering

Former: MD - Private Markets, Wealth & Asset Management, Manulife. Education: Ryerson University, Seneca College

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