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John Doerr on Climate Change: ‘This is the hardest thing humanity has ever tried to do’

By Mayra Rivera
January 23, 2023
3 minute read

We’re at a unique moment in history. A global pandemic has altered our lives and workplaces in unprecedented ways, and as we navigate those challenges, another looms large: climate catastrophe. 

That’s something John Doerr — Silicon Valley luminary, venture capitalist, and Betterworks board member — says we can’t allow to happen.

In the next session of our People Fundamentals webinar series, Doerr will join Betterworks COO Andrea Lagan and VP of HR Transformation Jamie Aitken to explore ways you can lead your organization through a committed action plan for climate preservation.

We’ll aim to answer the question: What can we, as business and HR leaders, do right now to help make change and align with the concerns and values of employees? Manifesting the change we want to see requires us to evolve workplace culture and tap into employee passion and purpose.

Stepping up to the challenge

Businesses leave a big impact on the environment, and that gives you a unique opportunity to make a difference. “We aren’t on track to solve this problem — but there’s hope,” Doerr says. “This is the hardest thing humanity has ever tried to do. It’s going to require all of us and all of our organizations to get there.”

Your capacity to drive change isn’t unlimited, so it’s important to hone in on actions that will have the biggest impact. 

Enacting meaningful change by reducing your organization’s carbon output is a critical step to solving other challenges faced by your workforce and community. Lately, there’s been a lot of corporate focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives, but the “E” in ESG deserves special commitment, Doerr says.

“This ESG movement is getting politicized, and none of us want to politicize the workplace,” he remarks. “But I think centering — not to the point of exclusion, but to prioritization — on climate is going to be a surefire way to address all of the ESG agenda.”

Sustaining your commitment to climate preservation calls for organization-wide efforts — and that means you have to empower all of your people to participate in climate progress.

Understand the urgency

“We’re failing to achieve what we must in order to cut emissions by 50% by 2030, and to take our 59 gigatons per year of emissions to net zero by 2050,” he says. “A number of companies have signed up for that, but their commitments are incomplete.”

Often, that’s because business leaders aren’t sure what actions are most important to take. That’s why Doerr, author of Measure What Matters and Speed and Scale, created an action guide to help you channel your commitment into measurable change. The guide outlines 10 specific objectives and measurable key results for individuals, communities, and business leaders to take responsibility for driving change.

“As a leader and influencer, you can convert to carbon-free energy,” he says. “You can decarbonize your transportation of people and goods. You can shrink the carbon footprint of goods or services that you manufacture or that you deliver. You can purchase high-quality carbon removal.”

Empower people to be change agents

Sustaining your commitment to climate preservation calls for organization-wide efforts — and that means you have to empower all of your people to participate in climate progress.

Help team members set and achieve goals that are relevant to reducing your carbon footprint. Facilitate conversations between managers and team members about how they can minimize their environmental impact in day-to-day work.

That commitment can help sustain engagement and action within the workforce. For a climate advocate, working for a company that’s doing meaningful work and committed to cutting emissions casts a different light on the employment relationship, and the employee’s commitment to the organization. 

Younger workers are especially invested in solving the climate crisis, Doerr notes. “This is the kind of conversation young people want to have,” Doerr says. “They want to be heard and they want to act, and our responsibility as stewards of businesses and societies is to hear them out, empower them — and get out of their way.”

Saving the planet from climate change is a monumental task and one that we’re already behind on. But every new commitment you make to cutting emissions contributes to a healthier planet.

Register for Doerr’s webinar to learn more about what you and your business can do to save the planet.