Kirstin Hunter’s 3 pieces of advice to accelerate climate action at work

Kirstin Hunter is a WorkforClimate Ambassador, Managing Director (NSW) at Techstars, former co-founder and CEO of Future Super, and a leader at multiple purpose-led startups (to answer your question: we’re not sure when she sleeps). Here are her top tips for accelerating climate action at work.

Kirstin Hunter
February 20, 2023
4 min read

Here’s something to think about: if every employee can impact a company, and every company can impact the battle for climate change, then every single employee can (in a real way) influence the direction of the planet. For better or worse. Climate change is a huge, complicated, existentially scary thing, but we can all make a difference, no matter where we work.

This is especially true for big corporations. When I left school, I was actually looking to become a doctor, but my time at university made me realise something: as a small-town GP, you can impact a community, but through business you can impact the world. I went back to study as a lawyer, and eventually started working for big corporate clients as a consultant. 

On the side, I was doing pro bono community work, and that was the stuff that mattered more for me. That was where I got my energy. When my daughter was born, I decided to make a change. Here I was spending 95 per cent of my brain helping companies make more money  - often at the expense of the world my daughter was going to grow up in. So I decided to flip that around. Instead of being able to allocate only 5 per cent of my time to community impact work, I wanted to make that my full-time job. And I did. I joined Future Super as a co-founder. 

Don’t look at my story and think that you have to quit your corporate job immediately. In fact, given big business’s contribution to the climate crisis, there’s a lot of good you can do in the corporate space. By changing policy. By changing company culture. By changing the direction of your industry. Each of us has the potential to make a difference.

Here are three tips for accelerating your own company’s climate impact.

1. Be brave and ask

This is the first step on every corporate climate journey. Just ask your manager and push for change. The worst that can happen is that they say, ‘No’, in which case you regroup and try from a different angle. (Or better yet, a different manager.) This does require some courage, of course. It’s not easy to stick your head up for a cause like climate change, even today. Especially if your workplace is just starting their sustainability journey – or worse, actively resistant to it. 

Ask your boss about the company’s climate policy. Ask them about the default employee super fund (is it fossil fuel free?). Their electricity providers (is the company using green power?). Their Net Zero targets (if they have them). Ask to form a working group to tackle the problem internally. If you’re unsure where to start, WorkForClimate has some great resources online.

2. Build your network

If you want to accelerate your impact, you need to build your network of people who think like you. In my experience, it’s never just you! Find other people in the company that feel the same way and push for change together. You’ll have a much better chance as a group, and it’ll help you feel part of a community. Once again, there are some great resources to help you.

Think about your external network, too. Say you want your workplace to switch to renewable energy. Does anyone you know have experience with making the switch on a corporate level? Or do they work for a company that has made this switch? If so, ask to talk to them about how they approached the problem so you can try their approach at your own company.

When I worked at Brighte, we formed a green working group off the back of staff wanting to be involved and contribute. That was it! And through that process we undertook actual carbon accounting, and pushed the business towards getting externally certified. And that came directly from our little team of volunteers working outside their job description to make the company better. 

3. Don’t give up

This is the big one. The road to climate transformation is not going to be easy. But you can’t ever give up. If your company says no, ask again. If they keep refusing to change, take your labour and your talents elsewhere. Find an employer that will act in a way that aligns to your values. If all employees did this tomorrow, I promise you corporate climate policy would change really, really fast.

Don’t be confined to the office, either. One of the most impactful pieces of advice I ever got was: sustainability at work depends on the balance between the self-worth you take from your career and the amount of energy you put into it. Sustainability is where those two things are equal. And actually the best way to achieve balance is by having a strong life outside work. That helps keep the office in its box. 

So if you’re someone who loves volunteering and contributing to charities and driving climate action in your spare time, prioritise those things in your life. Dedicate time to them. It’ll make you feel more human, and it’ll enhance your self-worth. And that, in turn, will make you a better employee. 

Want to accelerate your company's decarbonisation efforts? WorkforClimate is here to help every step of the way.

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