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High altitude reflections: Three insights from the B Corp Leadership Summit on Climate Change

In February, representatives from 35 B Corporations gathered in Taos, New Mexico for the second annual B Corp Leadership Summit, which focused this year on climate change. The topic is my personal passion given my role at 3Degrees, a company whose mission is to make it possible for businesses and their customers to take urgent action on climate change.  B Lab, who convened this event, hoped that the natural beauty and culture of Taos Ski Valley, which is impacted by climate change, would inspire deep conversation, connection, and collaboration. Indeed it did. Here are three key insights I drew from this experience.

Here are three key insights I drew from this experience:

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Humbled by our collective responsibility: the 12-year window for action

As part of the pre-read materials for the summit, we were encouraged to watch Greta Thunberg’s address at the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. This sixteen-year-old Swedish student began a strike outside the Swedish Parliament to demand governments honor their commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. Her words provide a chilling call to action as we think about the intergenerational responsibility to address climate change.“I don’t want your hope,” Greta said. “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

As Greta noted, the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report provides a sobering case for mobilization within the next 12 years to avoid the likely impacts if the world warms by 1.5°C.  Already, we have witnessed alarming impacts from the current 1.1C of warming, including the extreme heat, storms, floods, and wildfires that ravaged communities around the world in 2018. Future generations will bear the brunt of our collective inaction. It is a humbling reminder of this tremendous responsibility and renewed my personal and professional commitment to galvanize action.

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The case for interdependence

Throughout the time in Taos, we focused on the importance of both company action and broader community-wide efforts. The attendees came together with a shared conviction that we need to do more. And we also recognize that we cannot do it alone. As our organizations committed to each other in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence,

We act with the understanding that we are dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.”

Hours of conversation and hundreds of post-its notes later, we created a six-month plan with five action groups and a 10-year vision to accelerate climate action. These commitments span company-specific plans, community-wide action, cross-sector collaboration, and public advocacy. And it is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more in the coming months from the B Corp Climate Action Collaborative.

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Focus on where you want to go – not the obstacles

During the summit, we had the chance to enjoy the natural beauty of Taos, and I clipped into downhill skis after a 12-year hiatus. I went out by myself the first day. Truthfully, it was pretty miserable, especially when it started snowing. My mind and body stopped cooperating. Caving to panic, I gracelessly made pizza pie ski marks down the easiest trails.

The breakthrough came the next day when I had the chance to ski with fellow summit attendees. We had a guide, Christine, who offered an insider perspective on the trails and how to navigate what lay ahead. She also provided small, yet priceless, tips as we regained our ski legs. I started trusting myself and the support I had. Christine inspired all our “Green Trail” team to take on some tougher runs than we might not have explored on our own. “Don’t focus on the obstacles,” she counseled us. “Focus on where you want to go.” The progress was exhilarating.

Back at sea-level, the enormity of Greta’s challenge continues to ring in my ears,  especially as I look at my own kids and wonder what kind of world they will inherit. Determining how to tackle the “mountain” that is climate change is daunting. May we heed the sage advice of Christine, though, as we seek to move from panic to action. Together, let’s focus our attention on where we want to go as we take bold steps to reverse global warming.

Photo courtesy of B Lab

Photo courtesy of B Lab