Can individuals really stop climate change on a global scale?

3 min read

With the much anticipated UN Conference on Climate Change (Cop26) just months away there is growing debate about how we unite the world in tackling climate change.

And closer to home events such as London Climate Action Week are pushing forward the ‘grassroots’ sustainability agenda and how we reach the UK government’s target of being net zero by 2050.

There’s no disputing the fact that the climate emergency threatens the very existence of our planet and how we respond globally and collectively will ultimately define our generation.

But, as Nobel prize-winning political economist Elinor Ostrom once demonstrated, the power of people’s individual motivation and ability to participate and control their environment is far greater than assumed.

That old adage of think big, act small to individually yet collectively respond to climate change is a powerful solution.

At Mace we recognised many years ago that we and the construction industry in which we work has been and still is, part of the problem.

That’s why we work hard to lead by example, challenging ourselves by setting ambitious targets and at the end of 2020 we reached our aim of becoming a net zero company.

And while our journey doesn’t end there, with new tougher targets set to reduce our carbon footprint by 10% each year and deliver biodiversity net gain, we’re now looking at our grassroot impact.

We believe that our 6000+ employees around the world have the opportunity and the power to change our industry on a global scale.

By empowering them to not only understand the climate emergency but also how they can change their actions and behaviours to put the environment and benefits to society first, we can help stop climate change around the world.

We recently created and launched a new video which we’re sharing across our teams to inspire individuals to be part of something revolutionary and transform our industry along the way.

We want them to think big, be bold and use innovative solutions as we know it’s our employees who can drive change.

But more importantly perhaps, we want them to collaborate and share their knowledge with others and more significantly challenge accepted norms around ‘this is how we do things’.

If we can all challenge ourselves, challenge our colleagues and challenge our clients to put environmental sustainability first then we can make a real difference.

The something that’s often overlooked is the power of influence. Behavioural scientists have investigated the way our individual decisions and actions affect the decisions of others.

Crucially, they’ve found evidence that behavioural changes spread through social networks quickly and effectively and can drive changes.

Businesses like ours have huge opportunity to influence and for us this means challenging norms in for example, structural designs and materials to suggest better, more sustainable solutions.

We increasingly see more and more of our clients starting to understand what it means to be a responsible business and put the environment, society and good governance at the heart of their work.

In these cases challenge is welcomed and we’re able to push the boundaries and deliver rapid and impactful change.

And this is just the start. There’s so much that can be achieved on a community, regional, national and global perspective but it all starts with one person.

We think the secret to pursuing a sustainable world lies with individuals making their own mark on the planet.