Insights from our Founder: Sustainability is a team sport

every job is a climate job

Part of a series of blogs from Emma Burlow, Founder of Lighthouse Sustainability.

Sustainability is a team sport.

After years of being told that we need to raise awareness and understand the evidence, we are now realising that knowing the rules, and even having a goal to win, isn’t enough to succeed. Stories from Sustainability Managers of ‘going round in circles’ or ‘banging my head against a brick wall’ are increasingly common.  

Our knowledge laden, passionate, and determined sustainability professionals are at risk of burnout and well before we’ve even reached half time. What can we do?

Take the team sport of rugby – the Six Nations competition starts this week, but any team sport will do. As a rugby wife and mum, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on how the power of sport tells us a lot about how we operate at work, and how we might achieve or fail to reach our sustainability goals.

Here’s my top 5:

How big and deep is your squad? It’s not all about you. It takes a team, and an even bigger squad behind that team. One or two people with knowledge or skills won’t succeed. Depth of skills is vital, you need diversity and experience to win.  

Does your business believe? Belief is often more important than skill. It’s a hearts and minds thing. You will need a tonne of soft skills to change behaviours and move your company to a new course. You can see a sports team (or business) that doesn’t believe a mile off – they don’t win.  

Do you practice enough? One drill isn’t enough. Once educated, you will need to repeat and reinforce and repeat, even then, there’s every chance half the room will revert to old ways. See above – do they believe?

Who has your back? My mantra is: ‘the obstacle is the way’. You can’t go round everything, sometimes you just must push through. Hard. You’ll need people willing to go into battle for you. Who are they and do they know it?

Will you last the season? Your own mental toughness isn’t enough to avoid getting squeezed out or burnt out. You must be prepared to play the long game. Share responsibility for this challenge across the business and let them know how important they are.  

OK, what should I do?
If you train your people well, they will do the hard work for you. They will be your ripple effect and catalyst for amazing and unexpected acts. The more other people act, ask questions and take up the baton, the more momentum you have and the more likely you get across the line.

Think about the best ways to build your strength and depth in your squad and your supporters. We specialise in training, but not just giving over information. We train people that this is their responsibility – every job is a climate job.

Enjoy the Six Nations or whatever sport you are watching or taking part in.

What lessons can you take into the delivering sustainability in the workplace?

– Emma Burlow
Founder, Lighthouse Sustainability