How to Talk to Your Colleagues about Climate-Safe Retirement Funds

When reaching out to colleagues to create a climate-action team at work, use effective communication tools to connect, build trust, and learn to work together to advocate for climate-safe retirement funds.

Josie Moore

You’ve decided that you’re going to take action at work to make an impact in the fight against climate change. You’ve identified a goal: advocate for climate-safe retirement plans

After doing your homework, you understand that investing in fossil fuels and deforestation is not only fueling the climate crisis, but it’s also likely risking your future financial security. You know that WorkforClimate has resources to help you advocate within your company for this change, and now you need to build a small team within your organization to work with you.

Here are some tips and tricks for reaching out to colleagues to build a climate-action team where you work.

Know Your Talking Points

When you understand the key reasons why creating climate-safe retirement funds is important, you’ll be better able to identify colleagues who will be the most receptive to what you’re saying. According to our research, you should focus your energy on people who are concerned about:

  • climate change and/or
  • our quickly changing economy and how that will affect our financial stability.

WorkforClimate supports employees as they advocate for climate-safe retirement funds because:

  1. Funneling retirement fund investments into clean energy solutions is a huge, untapped opportunity for climate-action impact. In 2019, U.S. retirement funds held $32.6 trillion in investments. It’s estimated that we need more than $6 trillion globally per year in investments in clean energy to transition at the pace necessary to stay within 1.5 degrees temperature rise. Creating truly climate-safe retirement funds could provide much of the capital necessary to meet the world’s climate goals.
  2. Shifting your retirement investments out of fossil fuels protects your financial future. As the world decarbonizes and the market shifts away from climate-destroying companies, those companies’ stocks will quickly lose value and become “stranded assets” on individuals’ investment portfolios. Individual investors—like you—will see their financial future jeopardized as a result. We need to get climate-destroying companies’ stocks out of your portfolio NOW.

Be sure to talk about climate change as something that is affecting us here and now, stay focused on being solution-oriented, and show them how excited you are to do something that could make a big difference.

Talk to Them Face-to-Face

You may be tempted to send an email to everyone you have identified as likely to be responsive to this conversation and ask them to join you on this project. But talking to people has been shown to be a more impactful method of reaching them.

Emails are a great way to cast a wide net, but these conversations are about quality, not quantity. If you’re looking to build a dedicated team of people in your company to work with you, talking with them in person will be much more effective. In fact, a recent study found that face-to-face requests are 34 times more successful than emails

Of course, you can email, text, or message colleagues to set up a time to talk, but try to make the conversations themselves in person (or over Zoom, if you’re working remotely).

Tell a Story

Stories are the glue of human connection and understanding. They make us feel connected to others, more open to different perspectives, and confident in storytellers’ knowledge. More than this, they make what we’re talking about memorable, concrete, and more likely to be acted upon.

So, open the conversation with a brief story of how you got here, talking to them about climate action at work—why this issue is personal for you and why you are excited about the project of advocating for climate-safe retirement funds at work. (You don’t want to eat up 20 minutes of your time with this story. Try to limit it to a minute or two—max.)

When you frame everything you say as a story—why you’re talking them, how climate-safe retirement funds have the potential to help change the world for the better, and how being a part of this project can help your company become a leader in a quickly changing economy—you will be much more likely to build a team of colleagues to work with you and help you be successful.

Ask Questions

Just as telling stories has an outsized impact when you’re speaking to someone, listening to someone’s story builds trust and a feeling of “groupness”—that sense that you are in a group together . . . which is your goal for the conversation!

Some questions you could ask include:

  • What do you think about climate change?
  • What are some of your concerns about our changing economy?
  • Have you done anything (or thought about doing anything) on climate change?

Try to keep your questions as open-ended as possible—avoid questions that would have a yes/no or short answer. And if you do need to ask yes-or-no questions, try to frame them so you are more likely to get “yes” answers. Studies have found that when people start saying “yes,” they are more likely to keep saying “yes,”—and this will come in handy when you ask them to join your team!

Be sure to give your colleague the time to think about your questions, reflect on what you’re asking, and respond thoughtfully and fully. When you do, they will feel respected, heard, and valued—the foundation of any effective team.

Connect with Their Values

The two biggest misconceptions about how to persuade others is:

  1. What persuades you will also persuade others, and 
  2. Facts will change someone’s mind.

Although everyone is wired differently, in general, people are largely driven by their sense of identity and values. As you ask questions and learn more about them, listen through a lens of understanding the values that shape their decision-making and how they see themselves.

Do they focus a lot on fiscal responsibility and financial realities? Emphasize the irresponsibility of investing only for short-term gains while ignoring long-term hazards, as well as the financial risks to individual investors if your portfolios are loaded with potential stranded assets.

Do they identify as a patriot? Discuss the need to protect our nation’s natural wonders and resources, ensure our people are safe, and make our country the world leader in the booming global renewable energy markets.

By tailoring your talking points to their identity and values, you’ll be much more likely to get them excited about advocating for climate-safe retirement funds.

Stay Positive

During your conversation, your colleague may say some things you disagree with. Or they may share information that you know is outdated, inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain wrong. If you think they still might work with you, how you respond in these moments is critical for maintaining a good relationship that you’ll be able to build upon.

Before offering your counter, acknowledge their opinion or their belief in the information they shared. Then, use a “yes, and” approach: Instead of negating their opinions or beliefs, build on them—and do so in a way that, in time, may supersede those opinions. You can do this by saying things like, “I hear what you’re saying, and I’d love to add that . . .” or “I’d like to piggyback on that by saying . . .”

If, as the conversation wraps up, your colleague is unsure about whether they would like to join your efforts to organize for climate action at work, affirm how they are feeling and leave the door open for them to ask questions or to continue the conversation later. When you communicate understanding of where they are coming from, your colleague will feel heard and valued, and this will make them more open to considering working with you.

Bring It All Together

Once you have gathered a team of colleagues, it’s time to work together to reach your goal: getting your company’s HR director, portfolio manager, CFO, or other decision-maker to ask your asset manager for truly climate-safe retirement funds—preferably as the default. 

To begin, you will need to determine as a group: 

  • How best to communicate (Email? Slack? Text? Something else?)
  • How you will meet (In person? Zoom?) and how often (Weekly? Biweekly? Monthly?)
  • What needs to be done, and who will do what
  • How you like to work with us at WorkforClimate for support and resources
  • What you will call your team

Then, using the WorkforClimate Climate-Safe Retirement Playbook as your guide and WorkforClimate partners for support and resources, you can begin mapping out your path to reaching your climate goal for your workplace!

If you're ready to start working for climate at your company by advocating for climate-safe retirement funds, email our WorkforClimate U.S. Campaign Manager to get you started with guidance, support, and resources as you go.

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