We know there's an urgent need to address climate change, resource depletion, and social inequality. The world is witnessing the consequences of unsustainable business. This country is no exception. The nation is grappling with the impacts of climate change on agriculture, biodiversity, and coastal communities. The role of sustainability professionals is increasingly vital.
So get politically active. It will enable us to amplify our impact beyond individual actions or organizational initiatives. Step up politically. We can advocate for policies that promote renewable energy, conservation, sustainable urban planning and social equity. Our expertise uniquely positions us to influence decision-makers and shape legislative agendas.
However, as professionals our power is in our integrity. That means balancing the passion of our ideas with the evidence to be effective. That’s especially true today. Political views are becoming increasingly polarised, to the detriment of all. There’s plenty of fertile common ground we could all be working on. This is the most effective place to start.
What to do now:
1. Stay informed
Don’t switch off! We have to stay informed and adapt our approaches to events. We have such an important role to play, we have to be ahead of the game.
For example, sign up to our newsletter, Facebook feed and LinkedIn page. Keep track of the big issues in the media. Subscribe to specialist pages like Stuff’s Forever Project the Spinoff’s Future Proof. Keep an ear to the ground locally, through local newsletters, Facebook groups and newspapers.
2. Advocate for green policies
Sustainability professionals have in-depth knowledge about the environmental challenges facing Aotearoa New Zealand. We can use this to actively engage with political candidates and parties. We can speak up for policies that promote clean energy adoption, carbon neutrality, and the circular economy. That might be face to face, at meetings or in the media.
We can join and form coalitions and engage in dialogue to encourage the integration of sustainability principles into party platforms. Politicians are highly influenced by large groups of people (a.k.a votes). This is especially true if it looks like the group is inspiring others. Partner with environmental organizations, academia, and other stakeholders. Create a united front that amplifies our collective voice. For example, sign up to Climate Shift, a call for urgent action on climate change by all political parties. It's being promoted by a huge range of national environmental groups.
The current election campaigns seem highly opportunistic. New policies are being thrown about like lolly scrambles. This makes the party’s particularly influencable.
3. Empower your community
Sustainability doesn’t just happen in the workplace. Take part in or organise community workshops and town hall meetings. Educate friends and neighbours about the importance of sustainability and the role of their political choices. Empowered citizens can exert pressure on candidates to prioritize sustainability in their agendas.
4. Raising Awareness
Elections run on stories. We must maintain the prominence of sustainability amidst all the noise. Speak up about the important issues on at the office, on digital platforms, social media and more. We can raise awareness about critical issues. We can clarify misconceptions. We can encourage voters to make informed decisions. And keep up the pressure through relevant government submission and consultation processes. This also provides feedback on current and proposed policy settings.
5. Talk to your candidates!
Politicians are human too. Even in ‘election mode’ they still go on about “listening on the doorstep”. And they mean it. They’re looking out for any signs of how their policies are being recieved. Whenever you can, take the time to politely present a considered view. It’s much more effective than trying to berate them into submission. Attend campaign events. Ask informed questions during debates. Write open letters to candidates. Urge them to take a stance on sustainability-related topics.
6. Offer your insight
As sustainability professionals, we can provide unbiased policy analysis and well-researched recommendations. We can assist and influence political parties to craft effective and impactful policies. The thing about sustainability is, it works. So any and all parties can benefit from expert help in that direction.
This election could catalyse the kind of transformation Aotearoa New Zealand needs. But it needs more than just a vote. We need to make our voices heard and drive positive change, from the grassroots to the government.
So let’s do it!