Could project managers help solve the climate change crisis?
The answer is not as clear-cut as we’d want but, in short, yes. Project managers can use their position to empower a more green attitude towards our planet. In this article, we’ll have a quick look at the real threat of climate change and the actions we should all take to try and tame it down.
Table of Contents
- The Current Climate Change Crisis
- Actions We Need to Take
- Support Local Environmental Programs
- Change the Corporate Culture
- Be Active About Energy Consumption
- Encourage Your Team to Telecommute
- Go Paperless
- Wrap Up
Some of us may be tempted to think that the climate change crisis is only about the melting of the ice caps1. But this is only one of the many negative effects brought forth by the climate change crisis.
Let’s have a look at the current world situation. We started the year with Australia fighting unprecedented bush fires2, we are dealing with a global pandemic, several African countries are currently being invaded by locusts3, and several US states are hit by powerful tornadoes4 that claim human lives and leave a trail of destruction behind.
If we didn’t actually live all these, it would be easy to think this is a fictional dystopia and that the author went a little overboard with the darkness.
Sadly, most of the events mentioned above (and many others) are a direct or indirect effect of climate change. And even though scientists agree this is a natural process, the fact that it’s happening at such an alarming rate has a lot to do with human activity in the last century.5
In fact, the current pandemic offered us a clear view of how our global economies are harming the environment6. We don’t deny the fact that millions of people suffer because of the situation created by the COVID-19 or the fact that it may have changed our lives for good. However, the economy shutdown led to the biggest drop in global greenhouse gas emissions in history, lowered levels of pollution, and delivered a hit to the fossil fuel industry (the main cause of accelerated global warming).
But this is not a sustainable or even lasting solution7. The only way to slow down the negative impact of climate change is through ecological education and shared responsibility for our world. We all bear the responsibility for ourselves and for future generations.
The scary part is that when we say everyone, we truly mean everyone! Big and small companies (regardless of niche), governments, organizations, and finally individuals. We are all in this together.
As such, as a project manager, you’re some sort of a double agent in the fight to support the planet. You have a professional and personal duty, and your actions reverberate in two different worlds.
Let’s face it, the training to be a better project manager is what you should be doing on an ongoing basis. So, as you continue to grow, make sure to pay attention to the needs of our environment as well.
Keep in mind that even the smallest positive change could end-up impacting the world (the butterfly effect8). As such, here are a few of the actions you can take, using your position as PM.
Most local administrations have various environmental programs and businesses can chip in with sponsorships or volunteers. If not, you can always find at least one environmental non-profit nearby.
Persuade your company to set aside some money for this type of community involvement by emphasizing the positive brand image effects. In addition, Millenials love a company that’s actively involved in the local community.
If all businesses would practice care for the environment, people would be more aware of this. As such, start by asking for a change in the corporate culture where the company will only use office supplies from recyclable sources or will only work with green businesses.
The commercial and residential sectors are among the largest energy consumers in any country. For instance, in the US, the residential and commercial sectors accounted for about 40% (or about 40 quadrillions BTU) of total U.S. energy consumption in 20189.
But, if we take action, there are ways to bring consumption down, which is good for the environment and the company.
Here are a few that are quite easy to implement:
● Switch to green energy such as solar or wind
● Upgrade to modern devices designed to use less energy
● Have power-off times when all the devices are shut down
● Use LED lightbulbs (they’re more resistant in time and produce better lighting)
As millennials take over the workforce, working from home becomes more and more prevalent. This helps the environment as it keeps energy consumption at the office down, reduces the use of polluting vehicles, and more.
It’s also a good idea to use video conference systems to reduce air travel and travel for business in general (where possible).
During the pandemic, we even got to see how this scenario plays out in real-time. With more people working from home, we have fewer cars on the road on a daily basis.
In an era when everything is stored in the cloud, we are still consuming a lot of paper. This is unnecessary and hurtful to the environment, but also affects the budget of a company. So, take the initiative and ask for the company to go paperless (in the departments where this is possible).
If the issue of data safety is raised and your company doesn’t want to risk a cloud security breach, there are low-consumption servers that can be stored on-site, with huge storage capacity and various levels of security.
Project managers, business owners, and regular employees can do many more things to help empower the planet. The most important thing is to be curious about this issue, take the first steps, and keep going. It won’t be easy as there are lots of neigh sayers who would rather bury their head in the sand than accept the situation. But it’s important if we want to keep living on our beautiful planet!
 The World Counts: Ice Cap Melting Facts
 The Verge: What you need to know about the Australia bushfires
 The Guardian: Second wave of locusts in east Africa said to be 20 times worse
 The Guardian: Tornadoes rip through US south leaving trail of devastation and killing dozens
 NASA: Climate Change: How Do We Know?
 The Guardian: Earth Day: Greta Thunberg calls for 'new path' after pandemic
 QUARTZ: Here’s why the coronavirus economic shutdown isn’t enough to stop climate change
 American Scientist: Understanding the Butterfly Effect
 EIS: How much energy is consumed in U.S. buildings?