When the planet visibly slowed to deal with the grip of the global pandemic, even those who did not think themselves environmentally conscious started to see the advantages of clean air and smog-free cities. It’s a welcome reminder for the debates that will take place later this year as the United Kingdom attends the CoP 26 Climate Conference in Glasgow in November, when the climate change will be at the top of both the diplomatic and boardroom agendas.
Corporations are better positioned to solve the climate crisis and associated global problems by tapping into their employees’ latent innovation capacity. In reaction to the crisis, Maya Mehta, a fellow of The League of Intrapreneurs, created a sustainable finance product for BNP Paribas from her role in their legal department.
Changing food systems and chronic malnutrition provided an opportunity for Amar Ali, a Royal DSM intrapreneur, to help shape the Africa Improved Foods alliance with the Rwandan government and IFC, winning him a Schwab Foundation Corporate Social Intrapreneur Award. Through supporting such “intrapreneurs,” organizations will gain access to new sources of clean energy for the good of everyone.
In reaction to the pandemic, we have also seen examples of creativity at work. Throughout the year 2020, employees from a variety of companies, big and small, displayed their natural talent and creative spirit by assisting those in need. For a fleeting moment, the constant burden of short-term earnings was not the primary concern, allowing workforces to propose proposals that may have been deemed unpalatable under normal conditions.
Suddenly, soap factories began producing hand sanitizers, car manufacturers began producing ventilators, and beauty designers began producing face masks. This novel approaches to conventional methods provide reason for hope in the face of the much greater threat of the climate crisis and the global energy transformation.
Climate and culture change
The need for alternative sources of clean energy isn’t just a problem for the oil companies. It’s also not just about the world. Many businesses are discovering that their human resources are already depleting. Long hours, burnout, or disillusionment with business processes are dampening entrepreneurial spirits, making intrapreneurial energy ever more scarce.
Leaders understand that they cannot continue to neglect turnover of this critical population. The opportunity cost of losing current or future intrapreneurs is immense, with long-term consequences. Organizations must re-engage their workforces, encourage them to maximize their latent creative capacity, and maintain a steady supply of talent in order to create greater resilience within the company.
So, what do forward-thinking businesses do if they want to tap into alternative sources of green energy in their workforce?
1. Find new ways that engage the workforce
Global levels of commitment remain stubbornly low—according to a Gallup workplace survey, as little as 15% of workers are consistently engaged internationally. Meanwhile, managers are discovering that conventional employee motivational levers, such as higher wages, are largely ineffective. More innovative concepts, such as free yoga courses, gym memberships, and nutritious food options in the corporate cafeteria, have a limited effect, particularly when workers operate from home the majority of the time.
It’s possible that these are band-aid fixes for employee productivity wounds that have festered for years. Businesses will fail to engage a workforce that seeks a higher cause and the highest ethical expectations from their employers until they sincerely focus on what they do and how they do it.
2. Inspire the changemakers within
If commitment is assured, the challenge is to encourage and awaken the latent changemakers inside. Organizations must foster an organizational atmosphere in which intrapreneurs and their innovations will thrive. The right tone must be set from the top down for new concepts to come up from the bottom up.
Unusual Pioneers, a collaboration between Yunus Social Business, Porticus, and the Schwab Foundation, for example, is taking a creative approach to inspiring such talent by linking businesses, intrapreneurial workers, and a curated group of peers. Social intrapreneurs will learn new skills, try, iterate, and develop their innovations into business solutions in this way.
3. Retain and rejuvenate
Identifying and empowering an organization’s internal Elon Musks isn’t enough; keeping them is equally critical. One of the factors influencing retention is mental fitness, which is at an all-time peak in the workplace. Corporates must change their attention from a single focus on the mental wellbeing of people to the mental health of the environment in which they operate. Breakdown, burnout, and disengagement are entirely natural human reactions to a machine whose speed and expectations have surpassed any realistic limits.
Moving quickly is not impossible in the field of motor racing. Winning races, though, necessitates more than just speed—it necessitates a deft and well-timed use of the brake. We have surely perfected the gas pedal in industry today—we’ve kept our proverbial foot firmly fixed on it for the last few decades, with the focus on success and shareholder value. In doing so, we’ve forgotten about the break even point. Perhaps the pandemic has shown us the value of braking behaviors—and the importance of taking a break to represent and realign course.
Aside from the full effect of a health and humanitarian disaster on our personal and professional lives, we now face the difficulty of economic recovery as well as active reminders of the significance of culture and climate change. Igniting the flame of creativity necessitates commitment and focus. And, in order to reap the benefits of those inputs, we must protect our citizens and assist them in applying the brakes before they dry out or give up. Business has a chance to transform its position in society, and tapping into talent’s green energy is a good way to start.