Entrepreneurs Tackling Climate Change: “Don’t underestimate human resistance to change” With Ron Loch and Amine Rahal

Don’t underestimate human resistance to change. As I started working with companies to help them create a more sustainable employee culture, I was amazed by how simple adjustments to routine could spark outrage. One example was defaulting printers to double-sided printing to save paper. Regardless of the known fact that 95% of the pages were going to the trash after being reviewed, even this simple change to save trees generated anxiety and backlash.

I had the pleasure to interview Ron Loch. Ron is managing director of sustainability consulting at G&S Business Communications. He and his team collaborate with global Fortune 1000 companies and green business startups on strategic, integrated communications programs that add value to sustainability efforts and promote clean technologies. Ron moderates a variety of thought leadership events welcoming speakers from global media, businesses and NGOs and oversees publication of the annual G&S Sense & Sustainability® Study, which gauges public perceptions of the corporate commitment to environmental and social responsibility.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up on a farm in Iowa along the Mississippi River and spent more time outdoors than in. This gave me a passion for the environment and a keen understanding of how ecosystems are easily disrupted by human activity. However, as I attempted to become a fisheries and wildlife biologist at Iowa State University, I discovered I am much better at communicating than designing experiments. So I pursued a journalism degree and a communications career instead. As I consulted companies on marketing communications, I realized I could combine my passion with my skill to help further understanding of the business value of sustainability and address environmental and social risks such as climate change.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

We inspire people to take action, resulting in business growth for our clients. In the sustainability realm, we help organizations identify areas where their relationships with the environment and society intersect and offer the greatest opportunity for them to make significant, positive impact. We then create a business case for why this will contribute to their long-term success and help them engage stakeholders to set goals, innovate solutions and report progress.

Do you think entrepreneurs/businesses can do a better job than governments to solve the climate change and global warming issues? Please explain why or why not.

I do and in many respects believe they are. We are seeing a global breakdown of the traditional nation-state as countries increasingly pursue protectionist, isolationist and even authoritarian approaches, which make addressing global challenges difficult. However, many multinational companies are breaking with their home nations to pursue aggressive goals while entrepreneurs are introducing promising technologies that disrupt carbon-based industries, causing them to shrink even when supported heavily by governments. Our 2018 Sense & Sustainability® Study shows US consumers are noticing this trend. Only one-third said they felt confident in elected officials addressing times of crisis, while nearly half stated confidence in businesses.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Don’t underestimate human resistance to change. As I started working with companies to help them create a more sustainable employee culture, I was amazed by how simple adjustments to routine could spark outrage. One example was defaulting printers to double-sided printing to save paper. Regardless of the known fact that 95% of the pages were going to the trash after being reviewed, even this simple change to save trees generated anxiety and backlash.

Define sustainability upfront. As I began moderating events to explore common environmental and social challenges companies face, I quickly realized that sustainability is a term with various meanings. To some, it’s only related to the environment. To others, it includes social issues and financial performance. More time was dedicated in those first sessions to debating the term than to exploring sustainable solutions.

Don’t assume companies have easy access to data. When I first began helping companies with their sustainability reporting, I assumed they would already be collecting a wealth of information relative to energy and water use, recycled content, waste handling, etc. I found that that is not often the case. With so many companies growing through mergers and acquisitions, data collection was often inconsistent and hard to find.

Group therapy is powerful. When we began our sustainability salon series for sustainability professionals, we believed the sharing of best practices would be the most valuable aspect. However, what we have found is that participants are more thankful for hearing they are not alone in the challenges they face, even if not one currently has a solution. It reinforces that they are pioneers when perhaps they’ve been thinking they are lagging behind. It renews their conviction to find solutions.

Search for unexpected stories that delight. It has amazed me how many great sustainability stories I’ve uncovered that were never part of a company initiative or strategic plan. They simply arose from sound business decision-making or one individual’s compassion. Often, asking “What are you most proud of?” delivers a better example than asking, “Tell me about your sustainability program.”

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

@ronloch on Twitter

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