Businesses are key players in the effort to address climate change, noted our founder Will Steger in his opening remarks at our first-ever Climate Communications for Business leaders event. On Wednesday, June 7, we convened over 50 representatives from Twin Cities businesses at the McKnight Foundation office for a three-hour workshop on climate communications and actions they could take in their workplaces. Participating businesses ranged from the local – Seward Co-op, Birchwood Cafe, and Askov Finlayson – to the multinational – Avangrid Renewables, Best Buy, General Mills, Aveda and others.

The timing of this event felt prescient: less than a week earlier, the President had announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. In the days leading up to our event, cities, states, and businesses around the country have been stepping up in staggering numbers to fill the void in climate leadership at the federal level. The whole room buzzed with the urgency of the moment, and attendees dove into the content of the day with impressive energy, engagement and creativity. Twin Cities businesses have a long and proud history of safeguarding the special, unique environment that makes Minnesota such a great place to live and work, and that mentality was on full display during this workshop.

Relive the event

Opening Remarks: After a welcome from Aimee Witteman of the McKnight Foundation, our founder Will Steger and our Associate Director Janet Brown delivered opening remarks. Each highlighted the urgency of this moment, Will through the lens of the drastic changes occurring in the polar regions, and Janet by calling out the imperative of business leadership in today’s political climate.

Business Leaders Storytelling Panel: To tone set the workshop with a focus on values and personal connections to climate change, we assembled a business leaders panel featuring three businesses of different sizes and approaches to climate action. Panelists included:

Nicolle VanWie, ESG Architects Vice President of Sustainability, who shared her experience taking on more responsibility for her firm’s sustainability initiatives, including their commitment to the Architecture 2030 goals

Eric Dayton, Askov Finlayson Co-Founder, who told the story of participating in Will Steger’s Arctic Transect expedition and his decision to orient his company around the Keep The North Cold campaign, which celebrates Minnesota’s unique culture and environment while also working to preserve it

Laura Bishop, Best Buy Chief Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability Officer, who discussed her childhood memories at her family’s lake house as well as the energy savings that Best Buy is seeing from their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint

Communicating Climate Change in 2017: MPR Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner took the podium next to deliver a presentation highlighting current climate science and solutions, as well as best practices for communicating on climate change today. He emphasized the evidence behind assertions that our climate is changing, including the last three years successively becoming the hottest on record; the changes we’re seeing in Minnesota; and the tremendous opportunities presented by the thriving clean energy sector, including here in our state.

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Climate Communications for Business Presentation: Our Director of Education Kristen Poppleton spent the next half hour reviewing a framework for communicating on climate change to fellow employees, shareholders, board members or the public. The approach centers on values, communicating what we know, and focusing on tangible, collective solutions.

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Click for Values Prompts (PDF 77.5KB)

Breakout Groups: To wrap up the workshop, attendees split into 4 groups to delve more deeply into a climate change solution of particular interest to their business. Solutions breakout groups included:

Finally, attendees reconvened for a closing, which included writing down one way in which their company would act on climate change in the coming months. Business commitments were wide-ranging and inspiring. A few examples are included below.

“I will prepare a presentation incorporating all of the very helpful learnings from today to educate and engage our new and existing employees on the serious impacts of climate change, and the many actions we are and can/will take in the future to make a difference.”

 

“We will act as a catalyst not just to reduce our own footprint but to inspire businesses more broadly to become part of the solution – and lead at a time when our political system is so broken.”

 

“Continue to expand our investment portfolio options that incorporate environmental factors, as a way to further support the companies leading the way on climate change initiatives.”

 

“I will plan an event for employees where they can openly discuss climate, the Paris Agreement, and what our company believes.”