How to Build Climate Consensus in Four Easy Steps

November 6, 2023

Addressing corporate climate risks and opportunities is now too large of a task to be the sole domain of a single team. To effectively manage climate risks and opportunities, there needs to be buy-in and support from all levels of an organization. This is because the companies that succeed in managing and adapting to climate risk have strong, company-wide consensus around climate goals and action.

In this blog, we outline what ‘climate consensus’ means and why it matters. We also offer practical steps for getting climate buy-in from all across your organization.

What does ‘climate consensus’ mean?

Many organizations, particularly large ones at the beginning of their climate journeys, struggle to achieve unity around their climate goals, material risk factors, and plans for transitioning toward a low-carbon economy. 

Building internal cohesion around climate risk and action is what we call climate consensus. It means everybody is clear on the foundations of your climate strategy and that there’s buy-in at all levels of your organization to address climate risk. This cohesion must be present horizontally — across every team and department — and vertically — from the very bottom, right up to leadership and board members.

Why does climate consensus matter?

Good governance is critical to the success of climate risk management, and it begins with consensus and getting everyone on board.

Climate consensus ensures your business decisions are coherent. It prevents companies from investing in decarbonization, while simultaneously making incompatible decisions — like expanding fossil fuel operations.

Your investors are also looking for climate consensus. They want to see that your communications align with your climate action and that everyone at your organization, particularly senior leadership and board members, understands your company’s material climate risks. They also want to know that the company has processes in place for documenting and managing these risks.

Four steps for building organization-wide climate consensus

1. Appoint a cross-functional climate champion

When companies start their climate journeys, they should begin by nominating a ‘climate champion.’ Your champion is responsible for driving company-wide climate action and should sit either at the C-suite level (Chief Sustainability Officer, for example) or report directly to the C-suite. They should be empowered with support and resources from senior management and the board so your organization can make actual climate progress. A climate champion should also get other departments and teams on board when it comes to addressing corporate climate risk.

Although your champion might be your company’s primary climate advocate, they can’t be expected to operate alone. They should be able to efficiently communicate across the company and work seamlessly with and across all relevant departments. A corporate climate champion should not be siloed into CSR, ESG, or sustainability teams. 

The cross-functionality of a climate champion is crucial to building climate consensus. All departments, including finance and operations, need to understand how climate risk affects them. Likewise, your climate team needs a detailed picture of how each department works, as well the challenges and opportunities for climate action within each.

2. Communicate regularly with leadership teams

When they’re not working with other departments to identify climate risks and implement strategies, your climate champion and their team should maintain regular communications with C-suite and board members.

The climate transformation will affect every area of business strategy. Board members and senior leaders should not make decisions about the organization’s future without up-to-date data on climate risks and peers’ climate activities.

In a nutshell, your climate champion should:

  • Communicate regularly with company leaders: Climate champions maintain open and consistent lines of communication with top-tier executives. They serve as a bridge, ensuring that climate-related insights are conveyed effectively.
  • Share insights from experts and educational sources: Keeping abreast of the latest climate developments, champions provide leadership with valuable insights from educational resources and experts in the field. This knowledge empowers decision-makers to make informed choices.
  • Present peer benchmarking data on climate: By offering peer benchmarking data, champions help leadership grasp the significance of climate risks in the broader business landscape. These comparative insights encourage proactive climate risk management.
  • Secure leadership commitment: Perhaps most importantly, climate champions work diligently to secure leadership commitment to climate risk management. This commitment translates into tangible actions and strategies that align the organization with climate-conscious objectives.

Manifest improves internal communication

Manifest Climate’s software assesses your climate disclosure and management, helps you stay on top of business-relevant climate trends, and benchmarks your climate disclosures against those of industry peers, climate leaders, and best practice recommendations. Access everything you need to communicate with senior leaders in one place with Manifest Climate.

3. Centralize climate knowledge management

What is climate knowledge?

Climate knowledge is the documents, plans, strategies, and data related to your company’s climate risks and opportunities. Managing this climate knowledge involves thorough documentation exercises — such as climate risk assessments and gap analyses. These should be stored in a central location and updated regularly.

Most sustainability teams are small and experience constant turnover due to talent demand. Climate knowledge is also often siloed to the desktops of sustainability or ESG team members, which makes it all too easy to experience knowledge leakage. This happens when knowledge about a company’s climate risk management walks out the door when key employees resign. Many organizations also hire external climate consultants, and the information gathered from these engagements is rarely preserved or referred back to.

To ensure everyone — not just your climate team — is on the same page, it’s important to have robust processes for documenting and updating your company’s climate information. This includes climate risk assessments, benchmarking reports, gap analyses, and climate scenario planning documents. Having built-out climate knowledge management processes ensures institutional continuity throughout your long-term climate journey.

The best way to centralize climate knowledge management is to emphasize its importance and empower your climate team with the resources and authority to procure the tools and data that they need to succeed.

Centralize climate management with Manifest Climate

With all your climate data in one place, Manifest ensures institutional continuity and keeps your entire organization on the same page.

Single source of truth

Instead of relying on legions of consultants and a mess of spreadsheets, Manifest Climate can serve as your organization’s “single source of truth” — the one and only place stakeholders across business lines can access the climate information and tools they need.

Document your work with consultants

If you’re working with climate consultants, Manifest Climate’s software can successfully support your internal work and engagements with them by providing decision-useful insights and data-driven recommendations for next steps.

4. Invest in education and training

One of the biggest obstacles to corporate climate action is a lack of expertise. The demand for climate talent is strong, and many organizations simply don’t have the necessary skills and in-house knowledge to properly manage climate risk.

Rather than hiring a whole new team, one effective way to build climate expertise is to invest in up-skilling existing team members. Combining existing knowledge of their field and department with newly acquired climate expertise is a powerful way to build climate competence internally and get your organization on the same page.

In our recent webinar with Bridge Investment Group, we found out how the company’s sustainability team relied on education and external experts to build climate consensus internally.

“We take a multi-pronged approach to building consensus by providing insight and education. And we can’t do it all ourselves. So we rely on people like the folks at Manifest to help us. We lean on external perspectives and bringing in experts to validate what we need to focus on. I’m constantly telling my team to go out there and read, and bring back your best reads, whether it’s a peer sustainability report, a climate report, or content from someone like Manifest.” — Isela Rosales, Managing Director, Head of ESG & Sustainability (Bridge Investment Group)

The constant search for climate knowledge and resources becomes a helpful asset when it’s time to engage with senior leaders and board members.

“As we bring all that knowledge together, often internally we’ll get asked to show good examples of what others are doing. And we have that, because of all the reading we’re doing.” — Isela Rosales, Managing Director, Head of ESG & Sustainability (Bridge Investment Group)

Upskill with Manifest Climate

Manifest’s Resources feature allows employees from any team to gain the skills required to identify climate risks, stay ahead of business-relevant climate trends, and manage the climate transformation.

Harness the power of climate consensus

Building strong climate consensus across your organization is an important first step on your climate journey and will ensure that your climate team doesn’t face an uphill battle as it continues to manage and adapt to the climate transformation. Real climate progress is made when corporate climate management becomes more about doing, rather than persuading.

Getting started on your climate journey? Manifest can help.

Manifest Climate is a Climate Risk Planning software that helps companies supercharge their climate strategies. Our platform is the world’s best at assessing climate disclosures. We help to highlight your climate disclosure and management gaps and provide data-driven recommendations for improvement. Our technology also helps your team save up to 75% in manual effort and up to 50% in compliance costs.