Omaha, Nebraska

(402) 681 - 9458 | info (at) verdisgroup.com

Our home to share our thoughts and host an (e)discussion about the opportunities sustainability presents and how our world will be changing as a result. From savvy strategies for clients to our fleet of Schwinn 10-speeds and everything in between; we invite you to the conversation and hope that we can explore true.green. together.


We are now accepting applications for our 2014 summer internship program. Interested candidates should submit all necessary materials to me by April 18. This 2014 Summer Internship Overview provides all the details, including application material requirements, compensation, and the hiring timeline.

We work really hard to find projects that align with the successful candidate’s strengths and skills. Generally speaking, the job description falls into the following categories:

Data Analysis: Conducts a variety of different numerical and theoretical analyses at the direction of senior staff. Collecting, managing, tracking and summarizing data is an important component of the Intern’s job duties.

Writing: Preparing communications that are intended for a variety of different audiences, including both internal and external parties. Contributes technical writing to client reports. Write portions of client reports as deemed appropriate and necessary by the Principals. Other report editing and formatting as deemed necessary.

Strategy: Involved in organizational discussions intended to identify strategies that help clients be more sustainable.

Miscellaneous Project Work: Provide assistance as needed on client projects, to include but not limited to: research, report writing, data collection, meeting facilitation, taking minutes, disseminating information, preparing presentations, brainstorming recommendations, and general project management.

Administrative Duties: General administrative duties may include scheduling meetings, purchasing office supplies and equipment, data collection and entry, maintaining adequate electronic and hard copy filing systems, running errands, preparing correspondence, editing and formatting documents and presentations, arranging travel, and other duties as assigned.

We’re looking forward to our next summer intern!

Onward and upward.

 

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As we approach our five-year anniversary this summer, we have been spending time reflecting on all that is good with Team Verdis. There are many reasons life is pretty exceptional here: wicked-smart and passionate colleagues, forward-thinking clients, organizational core values that resonate, and work that we love are all huge parts of the picture. But another reason we’re all pretty darn happy is because of our digs.

We’ve been an Alley Poyner Machietto Creative Collaborator (CO-LAB partner) since October 2010, which means, in a nutshell, we rent a few workstations in APM’s studio and they give us the run of the place. OK, that might be a bit of a stretch, but we do enjoy amenities – a kitchenette, conference rooms, projectors, fitness room, showers, indoor bike storage, great art, rooftop deck – that we would never be privy to were we renting 1,000 SF in some random office building.

But it’s more than the amenities. We love the open floor plan that spurs creativity. We love the informal interactions with people that aren’t on Team Verdis. We love our location in North Downtown. We love the copious amounts of natural light that flood the studio every day. We love being on a bus line. We love APM’s family-like culture and are working hard to emulate many of their idiosyncrasies. We love the crazy stuff that happens on 16th Street, just outside our windows. And we love the leftover food when APM has firm-wide meetings or lunch ‘n’ learns.

The view of APM's studio from Verdis HQ. We dig the open-office environment.

I especially love the open floor plan, but not everyone is a huge fan. A recent article in the New Yorker highlighted a few bodies of research that, when compared to a traditional, enclosed-office setting, suggest that open-office settings inhibit creativity, decrease employee satisfaction, are bad for your health, and decrease productivity. Yikes! When digging into many of those studies, however, researchers are comparing an open-office setting to one wherein everyone has an office, which is completely unreasonable for a firm like ours and an architectural studio that values collaboration and teamwork. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The better comparison would be open-office settings to cubicles. Having worked in a cubicle previously, I can safely say that they result in nothing other than misery and despair, and an open-office environment wins out every time.

The Harvard Business Review blog recently suggested that when it comes to an office environment, one major factor that impacts employee satisfaction is an employee’s ability to control their work environment. Companies that allow their workers to help decide where, when, and how they work often have workforces that perform better, are more satisfied, and view the organization as more innovative than their competitors. I think this autonomy and flexibility is a huge component of why it’s great to be in the CO-LAB, and why we allow our team to work pretty much whenever and wherever they want – from the standing workstations in the studio at 7am to their favorite coffee shop at midnight.

APM is actually expanding their space so as to take on more CO-LAB partners. There are currently three (Verdis, Omaha Creative Institute, and Steve Jensen Consulting) with four more (SecretPenguin, Revolve Fine Art [note the showcased piece from the artist featured on the website!], Live Well Omaha, and artist Mary Zicafoose) committed once the new space is built out.

We consider ourselves pretty lucky to be in the CO-LAB and have no intention of leaving (voluntarily) anytime soon. If your team is interested in joining the fun, there’s more room in the CO-LAB. Come on down; it’s a great place to call home.

Onward and upward.

 

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It’s budget season for the City of Omaha, and the 2014 budget for the Planning Department excludes funding for the City’s Office of Sustainable Development, also known as ECO-Omaha. It’s a short-sighted move, to say the least, and we’re incredibly disappointed.

First, a little history.

ECO-Omaha was formed in 2009 with a grant from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. Its primary purpose is to strategically implement the Environmental Element, a planning tool created in 2008 that establishes a comprehensive new environmental vision for the city. (Daniel and I were both involved in the creation of the Environmental Element; it was a lot of work, involved stakeholders from across the community, and maps an excellent path forward for the City.)

Since its formation in 2009, ECO-Omaha has been working on and achieved the following (list not all-inclusive):

  • Implementation of several energy efficiency projects, which reduced municipal energy consumption by 16% (from 2009–2012) and resulted in roughly $775,000 per year in avoided costs. These projects also reduced the City’s municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 13%, equivalent to removing 3,125 cars from the road.
  • Earned and implemented a Department of Energy grant to build an energy upgrade market in Omaha through a program called reEnergize*. The result: over 1,300 energy upgrades for Omaha residents, which should result in collective savings approaching $1 million. Yup, you read that right…$1 million.
  • Led the completion of the City’s first Comprehensive Energy Management Plan**, which provides the framework and implementation strategy for effectively managing the City’s use and supply of energy.

So, what’s next.

The office has been grant-funded since it was created. Grant funding is expiring at the end of this year, which means it’s time for the City to chip in. Unfortunately times are tough (aren’t they always?), and cuts are being made across all City departments. ECO-Omaha falls under the purview of the Planning Department, which is an early focus for reform by the Stothert administration, and the Planning Department’s budget cuts will result in the complete elimination of the ECO-Omaha office. Not good.

Does it matter?

Yes, it does. the case for retaining the Office of Sustainable Development is very strong. Ready for more bullets? No? Alright, let’s use numbers this time.
  1. In a 2011 City Practice Brief, the National League of Cities highlighted four cities that have leveraged sustainability into economic development. The first sentence of the brief read, “Sustainability is a fundamental component of building a strong community, not only in terms of the physical environment, but also for economic prosperity.” Does anyone know a politician that doesn’t like economic prosperity?
  2. Investments in these kinds of positions pay for themselves. To date, Omaha’s team has brought in $15 million in grants. As mentioned earlier, annual avoided costs are in the $750,000 range, and Omahans across the city are benefitting from recent upgrades through reEnergize. Seems like a reasonable Return on Investment to me.
  3. The City of Omaha’s budget and operations are huge (2014 budget = $800 million in revenue), and far smaller businesses have dedicated – no, invested – in sustainability FTEs. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with Omaha’s municipal operations are nearly 100,000 metric tons of CO2e. That’s the equivalent to the annual emissions of 20,800 passenger vehicles. There is simply a lot to manage, and if an entity as big as the City doesn’t have someone dedicated to limiting its environmental impact in a strategic way, that spells trouble.
  4. The vast majority of Fortune 500 firms invest resources (time, money and people) into sustainability programs. These firms typically don’t make hasty decisions. Sustainability is good for business. Could it be the case that it’s also good for cities?
  5. Sticking with the “everyone else is doing it” theme; a quick survey of Omaha’s peer cities shows that most do have sustainability coordinators of some sort, although we were unable to determine how many are grant funded versus paid for via general fund dollars.
  6. If the Office is successful, emissions go down. When emissions go down, the air is cleaner. When people breathe cleaner air, they’re healthier. Omaha is currently ranked 142nd out of 182 on a healthy city index; a little clean air couldn’t hurt.

We might also be a bit myopic in thinking that the only way to fund the office is via grant funding or through the general fund. There are plenty of other cities that have tied their sustainability office’s existence to the savings they produce. Cleveland set up such a program and has fared quite well. Such an arrangement holds the Office accountable for its achievements, something not often seen today in City Hall, and has a nice little “out clause” if things don’t work out. Voila!

Do people care? 

One question a nay-sayer might ask is whether Omahan’s are supportive of sustainable energy in general. A fair question. Fortunately in February 2011, a statistically significant survey was conducted to ascertain Omahan’s views on energy. The findings clearly show widespread support for renewables and energy efficiency programs. Here are the highlights:
  • Omahans prefer increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy
  • In ten years, Omahans say the most significant sources of energy should be natural gas, wind power and solar energy
  • There is broad agreement that increasing the use of renewable sources and measures to conserve energy will create jobs
  • More than nine-in-ten are willing to pay higher energy prices per month to increase the amount of energy needs met by renewables

Action Jackson

We recently submitted a letter to the Mayor and City Council Members supporting the retention of the office, and I’m hoping to get to the public hearing on the City’s Recommended Budget for 2014, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 13, at 7:00 pm in the City’s Legislative Chambers (just in case you looooove public meetings like I do). And if you’re inclined to send a note to your representatives, here’s a little contact information:

  • Mayor Jean Stothert, jean.stothert@@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5000
  • District 1: Pete Festersen, pete.festersen@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5527
  • District 2: Ben Gray ben.gray@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5524
  • District 3: Chris Jerram, chris.jerram@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5525
  • District 4: Garry Gernandt, garry.gernandt@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5522
  • District 5: Rich Pahls, rich.pahls@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5528
  • District 6: Franklin Thompson, franklin.thompson@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5523
  • District 7: Aimee Melton, aimee.melton@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5526

Omaha: Soon to be Without a Sustainability Coordinator?

Onward and upward.

C

* Disclaimer #1: I participated in the reEnergize program, both as a resident and as a business owner. Both were mostly good experiences.

** Disclaimer #2: We partnered with the Rocky Mountain Institute to bid on the CEMP work. We didn’t get it, and I still hold a little grudge for squashing my dream of working with RMI.  

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VERDIS GROUP SEEKS SENIOR ASSOCIATE

Verdis Group, LLC is seeking qualified individuals for a Senior Associate position. Ideal candidates will have a passion for and knowledge of sustainability, excellent communication skills (both verbal and written), be adept at managing multiple responsibilities simultaneously, and have wizard-like data analysis capabilities. The ideal candidate will have two years of professional experience in a sustainability-related field and be ready to hit the ground running.

SUMMARY                    

The skills and abilities necessary to sufficiently perform the duties are varied and require the individual to be adept at many tasks. The position requires flexibility, attention to detail, and enthusiasm for the work. Generally speaking, the successful candidate will lead projects, effortlessly advise clients on how to be more sustainable, and effectively communicate with colleagues and clients.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS

The successful candidate may perform the following tasks:

  1. Sustainability Knowledge & Strategies: It is our job to consult organizations on how they can be more sustainable; having in-depth knowledge of the industry and the sustainability strategies organizations can and should pursue is imperative. We are particularly interested in candidates that have good knowledge of building energy conservation measures.
  2. Communication: Effectively communicating, in verbal, written, and in some cases visual/graphical form, is a major component of the job, and we take it seriously. The ideal candidate will be able to communicate technical information in a clear, concise, and accessible manner. Report editing and layout capabilities are desired.
  3. Data Analysis: Conducting a variety of different numerical and theoretical analyses. Collecting, managing, tracking, analyzing, and summarizing data are important components of the job.
  4. Project Management & Planning: Leading client-delivery efforts and managing large projects, which require the ability to prepare and oversee the implementation of project plans, facilitate meetings, delegate to colleagues, effectively communicate with all involved, and prepare exceptional sustainability master plans and other written deliverables.
  5. Other duties as assigned: We’re a small business, which often requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. New responsibilities will pop up, and the ideal candidate will be able to effortlessly handle many of them.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND ABILITIES:

  1. Thorough and accurate in all duties and responsibilities. Attention to detail is a key component of the position.
  2. Ability to think critically, problem solve, and trouble-shoot issues.
  3. Excellent planning and organizational skills and an ability to prioritize and manage multiple duties and tasks simultaneously.
  4. Ability to collect, organize, input, and analyze data in an extremely accurate and efficient manner, and an ability to effectively communicate the information.
  5. Knowledge of sustainable best practices as they pertain to businesses, organizations, and communities.
  6. Skilled in using Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Apple software. Proficiency with Adobe’s Creative Suite would be great.
  7. Have we mentioned how important communication is?
  8. Skilled in demonstrating cooperation and professionalism.
  9. Ability to work well with minimal supervision in a team-oriented environment.
  10. Ability to effectively work and interact with various cultures and ethnicities.

SCHEDULE

Our current expectation is for this position to be full-time.

COMPENSATION

Compensation is $18–22/hour commensurate with experience. The firm also offers several benefits, both monetary and otherwise, that the successful candidate will be eligible for. They include but are not limited to a health reimbursement account, bike and bus benefits, extremely generous paid time off, professional development stipends, and flexible work schedule arrangements. 

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

All individuals interested in being considered for this position should submit the following information:

  1. A letter of interest not to exceed one page
  2. Resume
  3. List of three references, at least one of which must be from a previous relevant employer

Interested parties should send the requested information to Craig Moody via email at craig@verdisgroup.com. Submittals will be accepted until the position is filled.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Craig Moody, Principal

Verdis Group, LLC

1516 Cuming Street

Omaha, NE 68102 

ABOUT VERDIS GROUP (read this. it’s important.)

Our mission: we integrate sustainable strategies that help organizations flourish. Our work commonly falls into two categories: 1) sustainability master plans and 2) ongoing advisory services to assist clients with implementation of operational and behavioral strategies. In both cases, it’s important for us to be extremely knowledgeable of the subject matter at hand. We dig into the data, find trends and opportunities, crunch the numbers, and then effectively communicate the relevant information. Once the plan is in place, we work hand-in-hand (yes, we literally hold their hands sometimes) with our clients to get things done. The implementation can and does take many forms: helping to facilitate green teams and their projects, leading lighting retrofits, studying institutional-scale composting programs, overhauling a waste and recycling process, identifying ongoing energy conservation measures, and then tracking all of the progress.

Our culture is extremely important to the work we do. We love the work and it shows in how we approach it. We involve the entire team in decision-making, and we expect everyone to work hard, but not too much.

Our culture guides our ship and ensures we are focused on our mission. To that end, we work hard to adhere to the following Verdis values:

Passion. We believe we have the power to transform business as usual and make our world ‘green by default’.

Integrity. We’re not going to greenwash, and we won’t let our clients either.  Seriously, it’s not an option.

Balance. We recognize the interdependence of the world’s economic, ecological and social systems and believe every decision made should reflect consideration of all three systems.

Collaboration. We believe we’re not in this alone and rely on our friends, clients, business partners and colleagues to help us create a resilient future.

Innovation. We believe it’s no coincidence that the edge of ecosystems is exceptionally innovative, creative, resilient and dynamic.  We’re not going over the edge, but we’ll hang out there for a spell; it’s a great place to be.

Continuous Improvement. We have a thirst for learning and are always searching for ways to do our work better.

 

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The composition of our team is changing, and it’s a very bittersweet moment for all of us. Let me explain.

When Patrick McAtee joined our team over two and a half years ago, we knew it was temporary; we just weren’t sure how temporary. Patrick had just earned his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, and had returned to Omaha to begin his law career. We had an immediate need to fill a few gaps temporarily (Patrick started the day before my daughter was born) so we excitedly added him to the team.

Lo and behold, the market for sharp intellectual property and environmental law attorneys wasn’t quite what Patrick had hoped, so we’ve been blessed to have him with us far longer than we ever expected. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Patrick recently accepted a position with the United States Patent & Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. and will wrap up his time with Verdis at the end of June. His intellect, wit, and passion for our work will be deeply missed.

Don’t despair, friends in green. We have a plan.

First, it’s high-time that I introduce everyone to our newest associate, Sally Hopley, who joined us a mere four months ago. Sally comes to us by way of Chicago where she was working as a buyer for Whole Foods while finishing up her masters degree in Natural Resources from Virginia Polytechnic University. Her graduate degree combined with her International Studies undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska Omaha give her a great perspective for approaching our work. To date, she’s been a huge asset to the team and is involved with nearly all of our clients.

Next, I’m excited to announce that my good friend and co-owner, Daniel Lawse, will be leaving his position as the Assistant Director of Campus Planning and Sustainability at Metropolitan Community College (MCC), where he has helped MCC be a sustainability leader in our community and joining us full-time. I couldn’t be more excited to finally have Daniel thinking about and working full time on this exciting adventure we call Verdis. The talents, knowledge, experience and strengths he brings to our team and to our clients are exceptional, and we are all quite excited to begin fully integrating him into every project. Daniel will be joining us full time in the middle of July.

Finally, we are looking to hire a new senior associate. We’re growing, and we expect that growth to continue. Hiring someone new is always exciting as well as nerve-wracking, but I have a really good feeling that the next great Verdisian is out there, poised and ready to make a move. Download the job posting here.

There you have it! As they say, change is the only constant. We wish Patrick nothing but the best with his work in D.C. I am really excited for him and his opportunity to apply his engineering and law degrees. And we are excited to get Daniel, Sally and the next Verdisian rolling.

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I’ve been on the Board of Trustees of the Business Ethics Alliance for a few years now, and I’ve always enjoyed the programs and conversations that the BEA hosts. They’ve recently taken the conversations online and launched a blog. Dr. Beverly Kracher, the BEA’s fearless leader, asked me to write a piece that pertained to one of Omaha’s five core business values, Community Responsibility, and how it compares to that of other cities. I’ve cross-posted the piece below, but I encourage you to visit the BEA’s blog and connect with them on social media. They’re doing great work and worth your time, attention and involvement.

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I’m an Omaha transplant and have come to love this city over the past 12 years I’ve lived here. One reason for my #Omalove is the city’s strong sense of community responsibility that permeates all its residents. It’s infectious.

To be clear, I’m not an expert on this topic. What I know and offer herein has been learned through several experiences and conversations over my career. And while I’ve been fortunate to interact with many of Omaha’s seasoned business leaders, I can’t say that we’ve had the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about Omaha’s ethic of community responsibility.

Furthermore, contrasting and comparing Omaha’s ethic of community responsibility to that of other cities is a bit of a challenge given that my entire professional career has primarily been spent in Omaha. I just simply don’t have the breadth of experiences to draw meaningful conclusions on my own.

To beef up my knowledge, I did what any true Gen X-er would do: I crowd-sourced my research. Yup, I’m talking about Facebook. A few days ago, I posted a couple questions, and the response was great. Several people offered some extremely enlightening perspectives on the topic at hand. Here’s what I learned:

Our Strength Has Been Our Cash

When it comes to financial contributions, Omaha is one of the most generous places in the country. As noted by the Omaha Community Foundation, Omaha ranks fourth nationally in per capita giving. Further evidence of our generosity, the Chronicle of Philanthropy compared charities’ donation figures from 2007 to 2010 and found a 177.9% increase in the Omaha Community Foundation’s numbers, second only to the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Hollywood’s leading charity. Foiled by George Clooney!

Anecdotal feedback backs up the statistics. At least a few folks in the nonprofit world noted that they exceed their national peers in their ability to obtain support from Omaha businesses. Those organizations that have the financial wherewithal to support organizations do so, and they do so in droves.

The Tide is Turning Toward Organizational Engagement

Many agreed and acknowledged that Omaha’s philanthropic strength has been financial, but several also noted that a shift is occurring towards more organizational engagement. One person wrote, “Empowered citizens, primarily younger, seem to be more apt at application of organizational strength in addition to money.”

I don’t think that older generations have not been involved personally or engaged their organizations. They have. I do, however, see many of my peers focusing organizational attention towards positive community impact. In my unscientific opinion, the reasons are twofold: 1) our younger, smaller businesses simply don’t have the financial resources, so they give their talents rather than their treasure, and 2) my generation seems to prefer a “hands-on” approach.

We May or May Not Be Strategic in Our Efforts

Perspectives seemed to be mixed when it came to whether or not Omaha businesses are really strategic about their involvement and philanthropy (includes time, talent and treasure). On one hand, a respected friend and nonprofit leader who has traveled the country noted that, “true philanthropy exists here – not just charity – where people are engaged in systems change versus just throwing money at particular issues.”

On the other hand, others indicated our generosity is often not directed toward the most important and pressing issues Omaha faces. The quote that really hit home for me: “In general we are very good at helping people, but we have a very hard time considering root causes and systemic failures…so we are very giving and responsive, but not so good at actually solving things.”

I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle and can vary greatly based on several different variables. Either way, it was telling that people had such disparate opinions.

Somewhat relatedly, another respected friend suggested that it might be worthwhile to reconsider a suggestion Malcolm Gladwell made at the YP Summit a few years ago: agree as a community on just a few common issues or root causes and collectively focus on those rather than soothing the symptoms. Made me wonder what those few root issues would be in Omaha.

Omaha Values and Supports Efforts to Improve the Community

My wife Emily and I are honorary co-chairs (along with Michael and Laura Alley) for the Inclusive Communities Humanitarian Dinner this year. As we’ve reached out into our network to solicit support for the dinner, one thing has been abundantly clear in the response: even those that decline to sponsor the event express sincere gratitude for our efforts. They often repeatedly thank us for our work in the community and wish us nothing but the best. This response really opened my eyes to the value that businesses place on community involvement.

The more time I spend here and the more business leaders I interact with, it becomes clearer and clearer that community responsibility is one of our strongest ethics. The vast majority of people are absolutely dedicated to making Omaha a great place to live, work and play, and they often expend a great amount of resources to do what they can to move Omaha forward. It’s contagious, and I’m glad I caught it.

Onward and upward.

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We held our annual retreat a week ago. It was a great opportunity to collectively extract ourselves from the standard day-to-day fare and give some thought to who we are and where we’re going. We started the day by reaffirming our vision, mission and values. In doing so, we came to two conclusions: first, we don’t revisit them often enough, and second, they are pretty well done.

In particular, our core values seemed to perfectly depict who we are, how we approach our work, and why we do what we do. As such, we thought it makes some sense to do a bit better job getting them in front of our collaborators and partners. They’ll eventually have a more prominent place on our website, but until that happens, here they are:

Passion
We believe we have the power to transform business as usual and make our world ‘green by default’.

Integrity
We’re not going to greenwash, and we won’t let our clients either.  Seriously, it’s not an option.

Balance
We recognize the interdependence of the world’s economic, ecological and social systems and believe every decision made should reflect consideration of all three systems.

Collaboration
We believe we’re not in this alone and rely on our friends, clients, business partners and colleagues to help us create a resilient future.

Innovation
We believe it’s no coincidence that the edge of ecosystems is exceptionally innovative, creative, resilient and dynamic.  We’re not going over the edge, but we’ll hang out there for a spell; it’s a great place to be.

Continuous Improvement
We have a thirst for learning and are always searching for ways to do our work better.

Onward and upward.

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It’s time for us to stop dancing around the issue of whether or not humans are causing climate change. The overwhelming evidence unequivocally shows that climate change is real and is primarily human-caused. This is no longer up for debate. It’s time to move on to solutions and, dare I say, adaptation.

Internally we’ve been talking about when and how we discuss climate change with our clients, partners and collaborators. We have always been very careful when bringing it up because we fear doing so will immediately alienate the “disbelievers.” I think it’s time we start talking about it. First, a little background on why I’m a little fired up about it. Over the weekend I watched a film and read several articles that put me in a bit of a tizzy.

Chasing Ice
First, on Friday night a few Verdisians and I took in the film Chasing Ice. It’s a documentary following photographer James Balog’s quest to document the rapid decline in glacial ice. As he put it in the film, glacial retreat is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. The film did a wonderful job of showing the eye-opening loss of glacial ice while being absolutely beautiful thanks to Balog’s stunning photography.

Chasing Ice really reached a crescendo for me when a few of Balog’s colleagues witnessed the largest calving event ever recorded on tape. Glacial ice roughly the size of Manhattan broke away from the main Ilulissat Glacier for 75 minutes, a portion of which was shown in the film and can be viewed in the clip above. It was absolutely jaw-dropping to see. If you haven’t seen the film yet, it’s worth seeing in the theatre (now playing at Film Streams!).

National Climate Assessment & More
When I awoke Saturday morning, there were three articles on the back page of the Omaha World Herald all covering climate change; two of which summarized findings from the National Climate Assessment (NCA) draft report. The first article focused on what’s been happening in the Great Plains and highlighted the crazy weather we experienced in 2011 as a perfect case-in-point for what we should expect going forward (of particular note: $12 billion in damages due to the extreme weather).

The second article summarized national trends and specifically mentioned the NCA’s finding that ”warming of the planet is changing daily American life“. The report, which is a mere 1,100+ pages, cuts right to the chase and identifies the kinds of changes we should expect, region-by-region, and warns of the disruptions our society will likely experience as temperatures rise. While it’s not as epic as Waterworld predicts, the prognostications are a little scary.

The third article donning the back page of my Herald originally ran in the New York Times on January 10. Its focus was 2012′s worldwide weather and it noted that extreme weather is now the norm. Several extreme and highly abnormal weather events from all over the globe were cited. As was illuminated in the Times article, extreme weather is not uncommon, but the sheer number of extreme events that occurred in 2012 is what’s abnormal.

Where Do We Go From Here
Fortunately, many businesses are responding, which is becoming clearer every time a major consulting firm produces a sustainability-focused report. One indicator: more than 80% of the Global 500 responded to the Climate Disclosure Project’s 2011 request for carbon disclosure (PwC: Do Investors care about sustainability?). Additional good news is that those companies that are actually taking meaningful steps are often out-performing their competitors (MIT Sloan Management Review: Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage). 

Despite the clear evidence that 1) we are facing widespread institutional risk to all of our known systems due to climate change, and 2) implementing meaningful sustainable change is good for the bottom line, we still find that adoption of sustainable principles can still be a tough sell. Why? IBM’s recent report suggests that executive involvement and support is critical to success. We couldn’t agree more. Without the leader on board, it’s not worth doing, which is sad but true. Leaderless sustainability initiatives often struggle and face insurmountable challenges when attempting to make progress.

I think there’s more at play, though. The term climate change has become so politically polarized that some leaders will stop listening if it’s even mentioned, which means that when it comes time for them to understand the risks they face and the benefits they’re missing, they’ve already tuned out. It’s for this reason that we rarely talked about climate change in the past, choosing instead to focus on the more tangible benefits of sustainability initiatives: saving money, happier employees, healthier work environments, and more loyal customers.

It’s no longer enough. It’s time for us to start talking about the risks that organizations face as well. It’s not going to be easy, but if we’re going to do our job and do it well, they must be knowledgeable of and prepared to respond to the challenges that climate change is going to bring. These aren’t scare tactics; it’s reality. And if we aren’t prepared and helping our clients prepare, we aren’t doing our job.

Onward and upward.

 

 

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