Month: January 2020

Communicating Climate Action in the New Decade

Climate March

The start of 2020 provides a natural opportunity to contemplate what the future holds as well as reflect on the shifts that occurred over the previous decade. From my vantage point overseeing marketing at 3Degrees, here are some of the most relevant trends for anyone who plays a role in communicating climate action.

An Intergenerational Audience

Climate change poses many intergenerational challenges. First, there is the question of the responsibility any generation has to those that follow it. The headline-grabbing news about brush fires in Australia, historic flooding, and record temperatures are a clear indication that our environmental legacy is at risk, and this is not to be taken lightly. 

Another challenge is that we now have more generations coming together in the workplace as we confront these issues. For the first time in history, the workforce spans five generations, from the Silent Generation, in their 70s and 80s, to Generation Z, just entering their 20s. Alliances among generations – particularly on climate issues – are not necessarily easy. According to a 2018 Gallup analysis, there is a global warming age gap: 70% of adults age 18 to 34 worry about global warming compared to 56% of those 55 or older.1 This wide range in generational beliefs and concerns about the impacts seen in one’s lifetime can make for some pointed conflicts in the workplace, like in December when 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker Chloe Swarbrick retorted with “OK, boomer” to her older colleagues during her speech in support of a climate change bill.

Shifting Perceptions and Expectations

Fortunately, there is some good news when it comes to transcending differing intergenerational perceptions and spurring climate action. While previous research found that younger adults were slightly less engaged than older adults on climate issues, this trend seems to be shifting, according to recent studies from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications. In September 2019, the passion of the global youth climate strikes resulted in the largest single event for climate action – with adults in 185 countries rising to the demand of the young strikers to join them in solidarity. As they come of voting age and join the workforce, these passionate youth will continue to shape expectations about the need for urgent climate action. 

The fact that 67% of Americans believe climate change is happening has impacted how organizations of all sizes are approaching their own plans. As many clients have shared with us, the era of viewing corporate sustainability efforts as a “nice-to-have” is over. No longer are companies tiptoeing around the topic of climate change. According to State of Green Business 2020, 90% of companies now report senior management level ownership of climate-related issues, up 45% for U.S. companies and 35% globally.2 The pressure is coming from their customer base, as well. For example, 59% of consumers now expect companies to take a stand on climate change (up from 39% in 2018).3 From our standpoint, we’ve seen clients not only take bold steps when it comes to climate commitments, but fully embrace sharing those actions in a very public manner — such as Etsy’s announcement around the launch of its carbon neutral shipping initiative

This next decade will shape the kind of world future generations will inherit. While some of the shifts discussed here will help, we need to hone our skills at how to effectively galvanize climate action. Now, more than ever, we must communicate the urgency of the situation and motivate clients, colleagues, family, friends, and government leaders to take climate action. Will you join me?

 1. Global Warming Age Gap: Younger Americans Most Worried 
2.  State of Green Business 2020 is GreenBiz Group’s annual assessment of the corporate sustainability performance of major global companies listed on the S&P Global 1200 index and major U.S. companies listed on the S&P 500® index for the State of Green Business Index.
3.  FleishmanHillard Fishburn launches 2019 Authenticity Gap Report

New Year, Renewed Ambition — A Note from our CEO


First, let me wish each of you a happy new year.  I hope everyone was able to recharge over the holidays and feels ready to jump into 2020 at full force. Though we’re only a few weeks in, I can already tell the year ahead is going to be a whirlwind as organizations across the globe continue 2019’s positive momentum on climate action.  Why do I believe that? Here’s a quick story for you…

When Dan Kalafatas and I started 3Degrees over a decade ago, I was spearheading sales and I honestly thought my phone wasn’t working (sadly, it was). I would make dozens of calls a week, and literally nobody called me back. Fast forward to today, January 2020, and it’s a completely different world. Corporate and utility organizations alike are proactively reaching out to us for help with their renewable energy, transportation, and climate solutions work. In fact, 3Degrees added nearly 30% more staff in 2019, including new international hires, and had to move offices to accommodate this growth.

While much of the climate news these days can be disheartening, I offer this as a piece of good news. This growth is a direct reflection of an increasing number of organizations holding themselves accountable and stepping up to take climate action — which, as we all know, is desperately needed. I see no signs of this slowing down in 2020.  

Here are a few examples of developments that I find most promising right now:

  1. Accelerating corporate commitments. From the historic pledge taken by over 500 B Corps – including 3Degrees –  to get to Net Zero by 2030 (20 years ahead of the targets set in the Paris Agreement), announced in December at the UN Climate Change Conference COP25, to tech giant Microsoft’s recent headline-grabbing announcement that it will be carbon negative by 2030, as well as launch a $1B carbon innovation fund, we’re seeing an acceleration of companies willing to step up and take meaningful climate action.
  2. Increased focus on transportation emissions. In 2016, the transportation sector surpassed the power sector as the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the U.S. We clearly have our work cut out for us to address this rather significant challenge. That said, it’s been encouraging to see companies such as Lyft and Etsy take initial steps to address their Scope 3, transportation-related emissions by investing in carbon offsets in the near-term, while they work on longer-term solutions. Our team is also working with more clients on broader transportation-related solutions, including fleet electrification strategies, and incentive programs such as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) in California.
  3. Utilities are also stepping up to the challenge. As highlighted in this article from Greentech Media last week, several major electric utilities are setting carbon-free targets, which is an important step forward. While there is still huge variation in how the country’s biggest utilities are addressing climate change, these bold commitments are a positive sign.
  4. Inspirational youth movement. As I wrote in a blog post following the Global Climate Strike last September, I’ve been thinking a lot about the legacy that we will leave behind for the next generation and I’m energized by the incredible leadership that this generation is already demonstrating.

Here’s wishing you and your organization a sustainable and action-oriented new year and decade, with a renewed passion for doing all we can to address the climate challenge.

Steve McDougal
CEO, 3Degrees