Climate Solutions at Work

Sales and Client-Facing Roles

Salespeople and those in client-facing roles (e.g., consulting, creative industries) have skills and responsibilities critical for implementing climate solutions. You regularly interact with customers and clients to understand their priorities, so you can gather information on their climate goals to take back and use to rally the rest of your team and organization. You’re goal-oriented, making you a great candidate for mobilizing and driving action toward tangible and meaningful impact. And, you have a level of control over who you sell your company’s products and provide services to, helping to ensure your company doesn’t enable greenhouse gas-emitting activities and instead promotes those that are good for the climate.

To make your sales or client-facing job a climate job:

Pricing and fees
  • Work with the sustainability and finance teams to integrate the cost of carbon into your products and services (a ‘carbon fee’), and reinvest that cost into emissions reduction and sequestration.
Engaging customers and clients
  • Pledge not to sell products or offer services to fossil fuel and other extractive companies—and the businesses that prop them up. (This applies to any type of role and industry that works with customers or clients—see this example from the PR and advertising world.)

  • Using your knowledge and understanding of the customer, work with the marketing team to engage and inspire customers to take climate action.

  • If you work in a client-facing industry:

    • Research your clients’ climate targets and integrate the above ideas into your proposals (or into your client briefs if you’re the client).

    • Serve more clients that work in climate advocacy. Consider doing some pro bono work. 

    • Encourage your clients to consider climate implications as they make their own business decisions.

    • If you’re a designer, consider the social and environmental justice impacts of your work.
Managing sales
  • Rethink sales models by: prioritizing services over goods; extending product warranties; expanding opportunities for product repair; offering rental options; developing second uses for products; and other actions that reduce waste. 

  • If you manage a sales team, institute incentives based on sustainability targets (for example, providing bonuses if a salesperson sells to a certain number of companies with science-based climate targets).

Team travel
  • Minimize carbon-intensive business travel and opt for virtual meetings/gatherings. If possible, instead of flying, choose lower-carbon travel options, such as the train.
Fostering dialogue and action
  • Network with sustainability leaders in your customers’ and clients’ organizations to understand their climate goals. Find ways you might help them meet those goals.

  • Elevate the issue of the climate crisis at events and in organizations that you and your customers and clients are involved in. 

  • Build community with other climate-concerned colleagues within your team and beyond.  Come together to brainstorm ways you can take action, and raise your collective concern at team and all-staff meetings.

Ready to take action?Here are some questionsand ideas to help youget started: 

Take stock: Identify your company’s corporate sustainability and climate commitments, if any. Are these goals connected to your team’s goals? Can you integrate the above actions into your company, team, or individual performance objectives? Does your company have any customers or clients that are part of or close to the fossil fuel (or other extractive/polluting) industry? Think about the small steps you might take with your customers or clients that would lead to a big impact if broadly adopted, and how you can still hit your goals and metrics without compromising your values.

Make needed changes yourself or reach out to someone else who can: What decision-making power do you have? Can you implement these actions yourself, or do you need to raise the issue with a supervisor? Is anyone with decision-making power already on board with climate action? Or is there someone you might be able to influence? Test the waters by sharing your own interest in climate action with other key colleagues and gauging their response. Consult power-mapping tools for help.

You don’t have to do it alone: Is there anyone else in your department that is also climate-concerned? Join forces to show broad support for integrating climate action into sales, client work, and throughout the organization. Consider writing a letter or petition to leadership, or bringing up your concerns at an all-staff meeting (something that will grab leadership’s attention!).

Need help making the business case? 

Giving up potential clients and sales may feel like a sacrifice, but the fossil fuel industry is in decline, making them unattractive candidates for long-term business partnerships and value creation. Many influential companies have already received significant negative attention from customers and employees for providing consulting services and selling technology to environment-damaging companies. Further, if your company has its own climate target, doing work for a fossil fuel company (or any company that is engaged in the industry) could moot your company’s emissions reductions progress.

Resources 
  • Clean Creatives is an advocacy campaign getting those in advertising and other creative industry roles to pledge not to take fossil fuel clients.

  • Climate Designers helps designers integrate climate into their work.

  • Microsoft’s Green Design Principles provides a helpful framework for designing digital products

  • Architecture 2030 provides tools and education to those working in the built environment space to “rapidly transform the [industry] from the major emitter of greenhouse gases to a central solution to the climate crisis.”  

  • At McKinsey, Widespread Furor Over Work With Planet’s Biggest Polluters details how employees at consulting firm McKinsey are asking their employer to cease work with environmentally damaging companies. 

  • Integrating the cost of carbon into pricing illustrates how companies like Ben & Jerry’s and Microsoft are using carbon taxes and fees to reinvest funds in support of climate mitigation.

  • See how Pinterest is combating climate misinformation by prohibiting ads that contain misinformation related to climate change.

The Drawdown Labs Job Function Action Guides will help employees understand how their roles are critical in addressing the climate crisis, as well as implement high-impact solutions and navigate key considerations for taking action inside the workplace.

Board of Directors
Strategy
Product
Development
Sustainability
Communications
Partnerships
and Community
Affairs

Please note: This graphic is illustrative of how different teams across a company must work together to achieve strong climate action. We encourage you to examine your organization’s own unique structure to determine how to best coordinate and integrate climate action across functions.

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