Climate-related disasters and natural hazards push 26 million people into poverty each year, according to the World Bank. The plight of these vulnerable communities worsens without funding, technical skills and access to reliable sources of energy and electricity so citizens have the tools necessary to take on climate change.
In 2020, U.S. environmental nonprofits received only 2 percent of all charitable dollars, as discussed earlier this year by Michael Thomas of Quartz. But funding is only a small part of the equation. To accomplish long-term change, equipping these organizations with the tools and expertise necessary to drive societal outcomes is even more important. There is a huge need for these resources, and therefore, organizations must step up to help make an impact and effectively address climate change.
The power of science, technology and innovation can help communities most exposed to environmental hazards become more resilient in responding to climate change.
While digital transformation is an important component of success for environmental organizations, research from Omdia indicates that up to 70 percent of existing digital transformation projects fail to meet their objectives.
When it comes to communities and organizations working to respond to climate change, failure is not an option. Helping to ensure these groups can succeed is one of the most impactful ways organizations can help tackle these pressing challenges.
In order to maximize success, addressing these issues must be a collaborative effort. We need to bring together the private sector, non-profits, governmental entities and individual employees.
For example, the IBM Sustainability Accelerator is the company’s initiative to help global organizations and locally led environmental efforts build needed digital capacities and meet their goals. The accelerator leverages IBM technologies, such as hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence, and an ecosystem of experts to enhance and scale nonprofit and government organization interventions.
Each year, the sustainability accelerator selects new projects and organizations to help communities tackle some of the biggest sustainability issues worldwide. IBM recently announced five new members of the program, all focused on accelerating clean energy projects. It supports the transition to help the world achieve SDG 7, with a focus on inclusive solutions to bring clean energy to the most vulnerable communities. The selected organizations for the clean energy cohort are United Nations Development Programme, Sustainable Energy for All, Net Zero Atlantic, Miyakojima City Government and Environment Without Borders Foundation.
Through IBM’s work, the company developed a framework that could be used as a model for other organizations that would like to move forward on matching business capabilities with societal and environmental needs. The steps include:
Identify and align. Determine your organization’s capabilities, offerings, and resources. Then, hone in on sectors or activities that map well to those competencies. Understanding where you can make a differentiated impact is key. For example, IBM’s technology capabilities and subject matter experts allow it to provide tech tools and expertise to make a unique impact, specifically for vulnerable populations (where the need is the greatest).
Define smart goals. Creating goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound will provide a framework for your organization to track progress and remain accountable to its commitments.
Activate locally. Think globally, but scale and activate locally. Each community or region is unique, so it’s important to engage with local groups and individuals who can help you understand the nuances of the culture. Leverage your local employees and partners to interact with local organizations and volunteers, ensure projects are delivered with local resources, in local languages, and through local team members.
Ignite the passion. Today, employees hold their employers accountable for supporting issues they care about, and corporate responsibility initiatives are now an important talent acquisition and retention tool. So, tap into the passion and interests of your people. The causes you support as an organization should also allow employees to use their professional experience for good.
Build connections. Collaboration is key to a successful endeavor in support of local environmental organizations. Find members of your network with similar interests and complementary capabilities that can expand or round out your projects. Call on partners, investors, universities, academic and governmental organizations that may have similar social and environmental goals.
There’s real power in leveraging your organization’s expertise to help nonprofits address environmental challenges. Collaborating with other entities that have complementary capabilities and well-aligned goals creates the kind of synergy we need to make a lasting difference. IBM looks forward to expanding the Sustainability Accelerator and multiplying its impact with additional partners. The only way we can all solve these giant challenges is by working together.
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Michael Jacobs is the Sustainability and Social Innovation Leader for IBM Corporate Social Responsibility. He is responsible for planning and managing technology-driven social impact efforts spanning IBM business units. Michael lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Abby and son Tommy. Their shared love for the outdoors and active pursuits in it drive Michael’s passion for protecting the natural world.