Abigail Forsyth: “If you want to fix the climate, first fix your mindset”

KeepCup's co-founder Abigail Forsyth has some ideas for how we can all make change

Abigail Forsyth
Woman in a red jacket on a roof covered in solar panels

As a leader in a business that firmly believes in the power of individual action, KeepCup Co-Founder and Managing Director Abigail Forsyth has some ideas for how we can all begin to channel our inner climate changemaker.

Since day one, KeepCup has been a customer-driven movement and a business based on the power of individual action. And in the context of our current climate crisis, individual action and behavioural change continue to be absolutely critical.

Of course, it’s easy to rally against the big polluters – the big fossil fuel companies, for example – but we’re all still recipients of their products. As individuals, we can’t sit back and suggest that it’s just those large corporations contributing to climate change when billions of us purchase their products and services and consume their energy every day.

With that in mind, a lot of the change we need to see is going to come down to, and be driven by, individuals. Of course, it’d be great if the government could step up and set some ambitious targets too, but we can’t sit around and wait. We all need to take as much responsibility as we can to push the world in the direction we want to see it go.  

And while behavioural change can be slow and arduous work, it can also happen quickly. After the War on Waste show aired on the ABC in 2017, demand for KeepCups skyrocketed. Reuse rates in cafés went from 2% to 30% basically overnight. You can be knocking on the door for years, and suddenly the whole wall just collapses. So you can’t give up – you just have to keep looking for the levers that are going to unlock the change we want to see.

"If you can escape this idea that one person can’t change anything [...] that really opens the door to a whole new mode of thinking, and a whole new world of action."

If we’re talking about affecting actual positive change within a workplace or business setting, the first thing is to switch to renewables – that’s number one – it’s a ticket to the game. From there, it’s down to the basics: looking at inventory management, the careful consideration and procurement of the right suppliers (who ideally invest in sustainable practices like using recyclable materials or installing solar power) and so on.

And if a manufacturer, supplier, distributor or even a client isn’t there yet? Talk to them about it. Try negotiating to improve the environmental impact of a product, system or service. Nothing is gained if we just sit back and say, “Well, this supplier or distributor isn’t taking this seriously, so I guess we’ll just have to put up with it.” These are the conversations we need to be having and, where we can, make positive changes a reality.

When it comes to those conversations – whether they’re with suppliers, colleagues, or even your CEO – it’s so important not to put people offside. If you back someone into a corner, they’re never going to change their mind. You need to find what motivates people, then it really comes down to a good old-fashioned sales job!

If you’re not a sustainability expert – and most of us aren’t – one thing that can help is looking at other people’s impact and sustainability reports. Lots of organisations release these publicly, and it’s so useful to see what kind of language people are using, what initiatives they are implementing, how they’re talking about sustainability or their goals and justifying them back to the business and communicating to their customer. Not only can you apply these new ideas to your situation, but I’d bet the vast majority of the people behind these reports would be happy for you to get in touch for more information or guidance, too.  

In spite of all of this, I know it can all still feel overwhelming. I honestly think the most important change, if you’re going to make one change, is to change your mindset. If you can escape this idea that one person can’t change anything, and if you can begin to recognise that we are all capable of having a positive impact in one way or another, that really opens the door to a whole new mode of thinking, and a whole new world of action.

And that’s certainly the world we need to live in right now.

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