Wake Up Call: Interview with the Global Campaign for Climate Action

nyc-hourglassSomething amazing is happening. This week in NYC, Climate Week is in progress, with leaders from 90 countries gathering for a United Nations-organized event focused on climate change. And there, along with 1000 events in 100 countries on September 21st, an unprecedented alliance of people and groups will be gathering for a truly global “Wake Up Call” to world leaders as part of the TckTckTck campaign.

In NYC today, people will form a giant earth moving through an hourglass: the ‘Human Countdown’.  The event aims to demonstrate that the time to act on climate change is running out.  The event’s actions are many, but its goal is singular, according to Kumi Naidoo, Chair of the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA): “Ultimately we want world leaders to commit to attending the talks in Copenhagen , where they must sign a deal that is fair, ambitious, binding and that reflects the latest science.”

I recently had a chance to interview Naidoo about TckTckTck, and asked:

“What about this will help leaders see this as more than a well organized protest with colorful, but ultimately dismissable people involved?” to which Naidoo firmly answered, “This isn’t a protest.  We’re looking to have a proactive influence on the decision making process.  The size and breadth of the TckTckTck coalition demonstrates that this is something that leaders should listen to.  If world leaders see support from their electorate for a fair, ambitious and binding deal at Copenhagen, they will have the space they need to take action.  TckTckTck is about mobilizing a massive number of people from a broad cross-section of society and ensuring that world leaders take action in Copenhagen.”

While nothing can ultimately guarantee or force leaders to do so, TckTckTck is most definitely trying everything in it’s multi stakeholder power to create as much planet positive impact in a short amount of time. This is serious. No longer are we talking alarmist fringe scientists, people of all walks of life are reporting, first hand, that climate change is happening, faster then most would predict. We can’t sit on our hands and wonder what to do. We need to get to work, faster, and that happens best through wide collaboration and support from a variety of people.

When you hear from people from across the cultural and financial spectrum, from around the world, that they are concerned about and serious in their desire to do something about climate change, you as a leader better listen.

But what if they don’t listen? Or what if they do?

What if world leaders, despite all the TckTckTck actions, let themselves get swayed by other forces they consider more important? What if they all make broad proclamations, then get stymied in their home country’s bureaucracy? What then?

Or let’s say some miraculous progress does get made at NYC Climate week, and in Copenhagen, with the US actually making meaningful commitments, no  longer stalling things as they had with the Kyoto Protocol?

In either case, while this strong focus on orchestrated action to address climate change is to be applauded and supported, it’s not up to “them” to ensure the continuing/increased health of our global environment is fostered. Not just them, in any case. It’s also up to you and me.

When I see videos like this, where the woman says she’s, “…really over Hollywood, the government, and the media, telling me it’s up to me to save the planet. Because it’s not.” It’s disheartening.

With climate goals often being years, sometimes decades away, it says to me that progress and success is always somewhere in the future, not now. People need hope, visible progress, now. And the reality is, we can, and must do something in the present time to support and increase the ongoing health of our environment.

We can’t count on or expect governments to do all that needs to be done. After all, they’re only part of this equation.

What does that mean? It means that we as businesses need to realize our role in and see the value of conducting ourselves in a way that is both planet and balance sheet positive. It’s the only truly sustainable way to go.

And you as consumers, what you choose to buy, what you ask for in terms of features, manufacturing, distribution, packaging, and along with it, cost that’s affordable to more then a small, dedicated dark green slice of our population, matters. That, my friends, is a huge lever to making positive change, right now.

Carbon levels are but one thing to be aware of, and take action on. Look around you: Is there a waste problem in your neighborhood? Does your company toss dumpsters of trash rather then recycle? Does your market not carry organic options? Does what you buy get dictated by price rather then the broader considerations? Making your voice heard and choosing to take different actions are not “little changes,” when taken as a whole, made by millions, perhaps billions of people.

Never think that your actions don’t matter. It’s that thinking that slows us down, stunts the true impact we are all able to make.

I’ve seen for myself running Terracycle that major multinationals + a properly motivated and excited public = huge impact. How can you do this too? in what ways can your business be a part of the solution, and engage the public in ways that satisfy and excite them, while making an impact?

Tom Szaky is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle, Inc. a company that makes eco-revolutionary products entirely from garbage! TerraCycle, since its humble beginnings in a Princeton University dorm room, is committed to being a triple bottom line company. Tom at the ancient age of 19 learned about composting with worms. The concept of using tiny little worms to turn food waste into a powerful, organic fertilizer fascinated Tom, who was appalled by the amount of food discarded by his campus's cafeteria. Tom started TerraCycle with no investors from a friend's garage by building a Worm Gin where he could house millions of worms in a small area. He all but bankrupted himself and maxed out all his credit cards to build the machine. With the help of friends he would shovel pounds of rotten, maggot-infested food from the Princeton cafeterias. Without any money left over, Tom could not afford to buy bottles to package his fertilizer. That's when the sustainability gods smiled on Tom, who was up one night wandering the streets Princeton in search of an answer to his packaging dilemma. It just happened to be recycling night and Tom realized that millions of homes were putting billions of free bottles out on the curb once a week! That serendipitous moment set everything to follow into motion. Slowly he began to finance his infantile start up by winning business plan contests. Finally he hit the pay dirt! He won the million dollar grand prize at the Carrot Capital Business plan contest. However, the financiers of the contest wanted to move TerraCycle away from used bottles and away from it's environmental focus. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, Tom turned down the money. In the six years since then TerraCycle has grown to a multi-million dollar company that doubles in size every year. Still we are committed to our triple bottom line beginnings. Still making our products from other's people waste. Still based in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ. Still a second chance employer. Find out how and why, here at triplepundit.com

One response

  1. Interesting perspective! Obviously both “consumers” (a word I really dislike) and corporation both have a responsibility. I thought that youtube video was simultaneously disturbing and refreshing. She’s not totally throwing in the towel, she’s getting angry that companies and governments are not listening and not taking responsibility – I think that’s healthy and right on. The fear, of course, is that people will get complacent, assuming they have no power, but ironically, she’s doing exactly what she says she has no power to do – using her voice to call attention to the issue.

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