White Paper: Climate Reality and how to start making the changes to your business – Trudi Bishop

For many years, Trudi Bishop, has been concerned about the impact that humans are having upon the planet Earth. Over the course of those years, ToyNews has been an avid and vocal supporter of those views and concerns and has made it its own determined mission to give the topic voice wherever it needs it. Bishop has held a regular opinion column within the pages of ToyNews that she has used to help raise awareness around this vital issue in relation to the toy industry.

This year, the year that the Covid-19 pandemic gave us all more time for reflection, Bishop has taken the opportunity to educate herself further on the climate crisis through the online training courses and books available. She shares with us her journey, her understanding, and her suggestions to everyone now ready to make the change for the planet.

One course I was fortunate enough to be accepted on to over the course of this year was the first ever virtual global Climate Reality Leadership course under the former US vice president, Al Gore.

Gore, of course is also famous for his documentary and book, An Inconvenient Truth, an extended version of his 2006 TED talk explaining the stark truth of the climate crisis as it was then. The Climate Reality Leadership Project, founded in 2011, is an extension of this.

The primary aims are to raise awareness around the reality of the climate crisis and understanding the urgency for the need for all of us to act. Equally the leadership corps is about creating optimism about the future. The project educates people about the climate crisis and its solutions so they too can pass on this knowledge to their wider network. I am very proud to become part of this wonderful leadership corps and to share more about it here.

It can sometimes be easy to dismiss the climate crisis as something happening to other people a long way from our own backyards or something to be concerned about for the future. Indeed, the impacts of climate change are often felt first and hardest by those in developing nations. News articles alert us to the rising sea levels/the heating planet affecting us in 2100 or maybe 2050 but these often feel too far off in time for us to really make a personal or a business connection with or even imagine. So, we briefly get concerned and then put those concerns on the back burner for more pressing daily life issues.

The reality is, that it affects us all and is affecting us now. Covid-19 being a prime example.

Every day we are sending approximately 152 million tonnes of man-made pollution into the atmosphere – that’s the equivalent of an atomic bomb going off 500,000 times per day.

When we present as a Climate Reality Leader, we are encouraged to share our own “climate story”. I personally reached a tipping point of concern a number of years back. It led to despair, which led to depression about the state of the world and what we had done to it. But it was two key things that really drove me to want to do more.

First, my adopted son who walks to school every day breathing in car pollution and who’s bedroom window gets covered in black soot from the nearby commuter road. Air pollution kills 9 million people every year globally and has been linked to increasing the effects of Covid-19.

The second is my hometown river, Ashburton River, in New Zealand. When I was a child it was a deep, blue, fast flowing braided river that we could swim and fish in every summer. As the years went by the farming in the area turned from mixed to industrial dairy farming, and rapidly the river not only dried up in areas from excessive irrigation, but became a poisoned pale version of its former glory. It made me angry. It broke my heart. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In a time of a climate crisis, there are three questions to ask ourselves: Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?

To answer the first, it’s worth taking a step back in time to 1968 when the Earth was seen for the first time from space. This now iconic image of the “blue marble” showed that earth was finite and vulnerable, protected only by the thin atmospheric layer around it. Must we change? If that vulnerable blue marble is to survive our actions, then the answer is yes.

Now, here’s the science bit: Solar energy from the sun heats the Earth, much of this is radiated back to and trapped in our Earth’s atmosphere keeping the planetary temperature stable. Unfortunately, due to the burning of fossil fuels this layer is getting thicker, warming the Earth.

Every day we are sending approximately 152 million tonnes of man-made pollution into the atmosphere – that’s the equivalent of an atomic bomb going off 500,000 times per day.

We are treating the earth’s atmosphere like an open sewer. Temperatures are on the rise – 19 of the 20 hottest years on record have been in the last two decades.

We know that our oceans are polluted with plastic. But they are also warming. 93 per cent of the extra atmospheric heat is stored in the oceans. They are then evaporating more water, resulting in super-cyclones and increased flooding. What were once upon a time one in 500-year hurricanes are now occurring once in every five.

Meanwhile, the exponential rise in deforestation and the burning of peat forests for palm, soy, agriculture not only results in obvious biodiversity loss, but means these vital carbon sinks are now carbon emitters, making the climate crisis worse.

It doesn’t make for great reading.

But how does this all affect our industry? In the UK alone, 3 million working days are lost due to air pollution related illness (costing the country £1.6bn every year). In China, where many toys are manufactured, their GDP has lost 12 per cent due to air pollution related issues.

There is still a stack ’em high, sell ’em (relatively) cheap mentality in our and many other’s industries while wanting to be/appear “sustainable”.

According to studies by the World Health Organisation and Harvard University, air pollution has been linked to a 50 per cent reduction in strategic thinking in people and a 25 per cent reduction in decision making. This is not just affecting children’s education, but it is affecting the productivity of our businesses.

Global heating is also causing an increase in droughts, turning many previously fertile lands into deserts. In the EU, the hops yield is down 70 per cent; even our precious pint is at risk. And now I can see your eyes widening…

There has been a doubling of environmental disasters in the last decade. Including land slips and flooding here in the UK causing £1bn in damages every year. The increase in hurricanes and unpredictable weather patterns affects shipping lanes and therefore can affect getting products to customers.

The reality of the impacts of the climate crisis is already having direct impacts on our business; through the effects of Covid-19, sickness of our workers, flood risks, weather patterns affecting production and shipping. It’s time to wake up and smell the Fairtrade coffee.

So “Can we change?”

Well yes.

The technology already exists for us to dramatically reduce the effects of climate change. The cost of renewable energy is coming down and reliance on burning coal is coming down quickly. The UK, in the last few years, has been ‘coal free’ for more than 60 days in a row. Many countries are rapidly reaching grid parity where renewable energy is the same cost or cheaper than burning fossil fuels.

Investment in clean energy has increased with returns up 60 per cent in the last year. ROI on fossil fuels are down 12 per cent. Battery storage is improving in efficiency and cost. Globally, 240 companies have committed to moving to 100 per cent renewable energy.

So, yes. We can change. But more specifically, what can we in the toy industry do?

There are some great initiatives from the product teams already: plush from recycled plastic, minimising packaging, removing unnecessary plastic from packaging, moving toward plant-based plastic where possible. The list is beginning to grow, and it is great to see.

Unfortunately, the initiatives to go “greener” by toy companies are often pushed down to the product and marketing teams with the need for continual growth. Profit over planet. Shareholder returns still being prioritised. This makes your wonderful teams’ jobs very hard.

There is still a stack ’em high, sell ’em (relatively) cheap mentality in our and many other’s industries while wanting to be/appear “sustainable”. The vested interest needs to be at all levels of a company to ensure change happens.

Here are a few suggestions to look at:

  • Look at your investments and who you bank with. Follow the money: Do you, or are your pensions etc invested in fossil fuel burning companies? Look at Triodos bank for ‘good banking’.
  • Prioritise the planet, its people, and your young consumers’ futures over profit.
  • Reduce your company’s scope one and two CO2 emissions, then look at your scope three.
  • Change your energy supplier to a fully renewable supplier such as Ecotricity.
  • Make your office/factory/home working more energy efficient – you’ll save money too.
  • Waste less. You’ll save money.
  • Reduce the number of skus you create to only those that actually have good stock turn – there is a lot of replication in the toy and licensing industry – consumers don’t need more of the same and neither does the planet.
  • Fly less, drive less. Walk and cycle more.
  • Plant some trees

The final question. Will we change? That much is up to you.

If you want a deeper dive into the Climate Reality Project, please feel free to contact me for a free presentation.

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