Recently, we interviewed Laura Storm, executive director of Sustainia. As former director of the Copenhagen Climate Council and the World Business Summit on Climate Change, Storm has a great deal of experience in working with world leaders to tackle challenging climate topics.
During the interview, Storm referenced the general disappointment that people felt after the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks. All talk and no action, according to countless critics. Perhaps the topics were too broad to fully comprehend, the ideas too esoteric to transform from concepts into tasks.
Storm cited some interesting lessons learned from the 2009 meetings that she hopes won’t be replicated when the next round of RIO+ 20 global climate talks begin on June 20, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro.
Communications failed in 2009 because the messaging was simply too complicated to create global momentum. People couldn’t relate to the climate language that was being used. For some reason, words like carbon emissions, joint implementation, clean development mechanisms, and emissions trading schemes just didn’t get the juices flowing.
Furthermore, the gloom and doom messages that were used to describe the apocalyptic end that’s right around the corner unless we all immediately start riding our bikes to work, wearing hemp clothing, and eating nothing but organic broccoli didn’t seem to resonate with the crowd. Fear just wasn’t a good motivator for a group of people who traveled from countries around the world with the hope of walking away with real solutions—instead, it caused distance and even disillusionment.
This year, Storm is eagerly anticipating a new approach for the climate meetings. She hopes that leaders can use language that inspires and engages the throngs of people who will be in attendance. She has encouraged Sustainia founders Governor Schwarzenegger and European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard to focus on existing green technologies rather than abstract future concepts.
There’s some sage advice for all of us in Storm’s words—sustainability discussions don’t have to be complex or scary or polarizing. Inspiring images, simple language, smart technology, and existing solutions may be all that we need to create the momentum for a sustainable future. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”
Sara is the Co-Founder and CEO of Green Builder Media. An experienced entrepreneur, investor, and sustainability consultant, Sara specializes in developing companies that are simultaneously sustainable and profitable. Sara is a former venture capitalist and has participated in a portion of the life cycle (from funding to exit) of over 20 companies. Sara graduated Cum Laude from Dartmouth College and holds an MBA in entrepreneurship and finance from the University of Colorado. This article was reprinted with permission from Green Builder Media.