An Introduction to Climate Conversations

Climate Strike March

We believe that the climate crisis requires an unprecedented response from all parts of humanity. At On Purpose, we are passionately committed to playing our part in that response.

We started 2020 by declaring a climate emergency and our firm belief is that the current pandemic does not change that urgency - as Zeke Hausfather, Director of Climate and Energy at the Breakthrough Institute, has said “any reduction in CO2 from COVID-19 in 2020 will have virtually no effect on 2020 CO2 concentrations or global temperatures”. If anything, it brings into sharper focus the costs of our ongoing depletion of the natural world.

As On Purpose we have tried to work to quickly translate our climate emergency declaration into action. We are doing this on a number of fronts. We are taking immediate action on the easy and obvious. We are assessing our climate impact as an organisation. We are trying to influence others. And we are starting to think about the harder choices we have to make.

Where the action we need to take is clear and self-evident we are taking action now. Any food we provide to our Associates, other participants, team members and event attendees is now vegan or vegetarian. We are reducing the number of flights taken by our team, participants and trainers. We are seeking to move our pensions to funds which treat the climate crisis with the seriousness it deserves. Our UK banks already have ethical investment policies, and we will ensure that becomes the case in France and Germany too.  

We are also building a picture of our impact as an organisation. Kolja Gerlach, an On Purpose Fellow in Berlin, works for Climate Partner which helps organisations assess their climate footprints. We will be working with them to assess our impact as an organisation, and that will give us more work to do.

In addition, as part of our climate emergency declaration we are committing to try to influence the actions of others. We want to make sure we harness the many connections On Purpose has with people, organisations and movements to engage as many people as possible with the challenges we face due to the climate crisis. We also want to help to light the way in terms of highlighting the positive action that we can take, individually and collectively, to ensure we are travelling in the right direction.

As part of that I'm really happy to introduce our new series - Climate Conversations - where we will host voices that aim to provide inspiration and motivation for others, and seek to connect with and bring together those who are, or want to, make this journey with us. On Purpose will also continue to share publicly what we learn as we make this journey.

We are also keen to hear from you, our community, what you would most value from us, and what would give you the energy you need for the future. Please do be in touch if you have ideas, suggestions and contributions you want to share.

We recognise On Purpose is likely to have an easier journey to carbon neutral than many other organisations. We provide advice, services and programmes, so our services don’t have emissions built into them in the way that, say, an architect’s buildings do.  Our three cities - London, Berlin and Paris - all have great public transport. Many of our staff are already cyclists. For travel between our hubs we have brilliant rail links between two, and a plausible train journey to the third.

However we recognise there are areas that even we will find it hard. For example, the technology we use, and the buildings we work in are harder to assess the impact of, and in some cases - if we find out we need something different - will be difficult to change. The best we can say right now on these is we will cross these bridges when we come to them.

We also have choices to make, some of which have no easy answers.

Where will we say are the limits of our responsibilities? For example, what role do we have in encouraging our team, our Associates, and our wider community - to make changes to their lives outside work?

We are committed to taking responsibility for many emissions that sit in our value chain, but outside our organisation - how far should that responsibility go? We are committed to purchasing from suppliers who are taking the climate crisis seriously. What responsibility should we take for the carbon emissions of the organisations we work with as Associate Programme placement hosts and other partners? As part of our declaration we are committing to influencing the actions of others. Is that enough?

Where should we draw the line between reducing our impact and offsetting? At the moment, we are fully focused on reducing our impact as far as possible, but there will come a point where the financial cost of changing the way we work is far higher than the cost of buying carbon offsets - what should we do then? 

Each step we take along the road will be a new one, and we are learning as we go. We have committed to being open about the journey we are taking, and we hope by doing so we will convince others to begin their own journeys, and start conversations about questions to which none of us yet know the answers to.

We approach this declaration humbly. We will be one of many communities making this commitment, and one of many organisations working to make themselves fit for a better future. The journey we make will not be perfect - I am sure we will get things wrong, move too slowly, and find it hard to unpick the difficult trade offs.

But we feel it is a journey we have no choice but to take. And we hope you - the organisations you work for, the communities you are a part of, and the cities where you live - will travel with us.

I look forward to hearing about the journeys you are taking, and to sharing this journey with you.