Crew Commentary

Adaptation and Regeneration

Bob Leonard - Climate Risk Manager


To support the shift from an extract/manufacture/toss linear economy to a zero carbon/methane/waste circular economy, we must support natural processes and leave more room for nature to thrive. Sustainability and reducing emissions are no longer enough. We’ve run out of time. We now need to focus on actively improving Spaceship Earth’s ecosystem via Regeneration.


Our climate crisis is currently disrupting (to one degree or another) cities, countries, families, governments, industries, militaries, organizations, societies, supply chains… just about everything. This situation is going to grow worse with more frequent and severe weather events. So, in addition to mitigation we must rapidly adapt.


What is climate change adaptation? The US Environmental Protection Agency defines it this way: “The impacts of climate change affect people in every region of the country, threatening lives and livelihoods and damaging infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems. The last few years have seen climate-related, record-breaking weather extremes; increased droughts, flooding, and wildfire; increasing surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapor. Climate adaptation means taking action to prepare for and adjust to both the current and projected impacts of climate change.”


Within an organization, climate adaptation is normally housed in the functions of business continuity, health and safety, or risk management. Risks are typically handled in one or more of these three ways:


  1. Minimizing exposures to hazards by choosing building sites carefully, and hardening buildings for extreme temperature and precipitation, hurricane force winds, and storm surges.
  2. Reducing sensitivity to hazards (e.g. after hurricane Sandy, Bloomberg moved its data center from a ground floor near water on the southern tip of Manhattan to higher ground in New Jersey). Anticipatory scenarios should be run to determine vulnerabilities to climate risks and take the appropriate actions before disaster strikes.
  3. Evolving the culture, training and decision-making systems of an organization so people are climate literate, vigilant for potential risks (and opportunities), and feel they have the authority to make decisions and take action during an emergency.


Many climate risks are beyond an organization’s ability to address successfully. These risks must be tackled by the institutions, industries and governments that have jurisdiction (i.e. coordination of disaster response plans including volunteer management; burying power lines to reduce the threat of storm damage; landscape management – green spaces and permeable surfaces against flooding and heat; and maintaining facilities to house and feed people displaced by extreme weather events).


Yet, we should not focus solely on extreme weather events. We must also account for the broader knock-on disruptions that arise from indirect climate impacts. These include rapid decreases in food availability and increases in food prices, and disease outbreaks due to the lack of clean water and sanitation. This means that organizations should not only consider the impacts to the business, but to stakeholders including employees and local communities.




Regeneration aims to restore Spaceship Earth to the clean, healthy natural state it was in prior to the Industrial Revolution. It will be a massive global effort. And it will take decades. The ongoing cause of degeneration is human apathy, greed and ignorance.


How we change our current extractive system into one that aligns and works with Nature can be enabled by the adoption of crew consciousness. Crew consciousness requires creativity, empathy, imagination and inclusion.



Crew Consciousness


Committing to deeply adapt to our climate crisis and the multiple impacts it will have on an organization and its stakeholders requires a number of initiatives. Crew consciousness (thinking and acting like active crew members on Spaceship Earth instead of passive passengers) enables an organizational culture that (eventually, it doesn’t happen overnight) supports the following list of attributes:


Get Real


It’s too late to prevent many of the catastrophic impacts that will affect your organization and its stakeholders. So ask: “What if societal disruptions continue to worsen for the next twenty years? How can we creatively explore the consequences to the business?”


Deliberately change the conversation. Be clear that our new abnormal requires reskilling. Assess current skill levels. Determine what new skills will be required, and install learning programs. Make this process of upskilling a permanent part of employee education. Assume it will need to run for the foreseeable future.


Launch an Adaptation Team


Create and empower a group of appropriate people to focus on the direct impacts of climate change (such as extreme heat, storm surge, wildfires and wind damage), but also to the wider panoply of disruptions. That includes disruptions to the organization, but also building resilience within local communities, such as diversifying local food and energy supplies.


Adaptation team members are often selected for technical skills. Yet it is the softer skills (critical thinking, emotional intelligence, empathy, problem solving) that are often most relevant in emergency situations. The organization’s strategic role, culture (and perhaps) even business model must be reconsidered in an era of climate crisis. The Adaptation Team should include people from business continuity, risk management and sustainability alongside people throughout the organization who show an interest in climate adaptation. Include people not directly working for the company like customer groups and trade unions. To help them engage outside their siloes, a trained facilitator external to the organization will be able to see the forest for the trees, and will be freer to speak truth to power. “How can we make Climate Adaptation plans for our whole organization?”


Put People First


Encourage and enable staff to learn the new skills needed in a world that is rapidly devolving due to warming temperatures. Help them to design their individual climate adaptation plans for their homes and families. “What can we do now to help each other navigate a difficult future?”


Evolve Products and Services


What’s the point of becoming more resilient to societal disruptions if an organization’s activities continue to warm the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, or if it continues to use wasteful production processes? Be brutally honest about what products and services likely have no future in a zero carbon/zero waste world and make plans to phase them out. Replace them with the products and services your customers will want in five years. Examine your internal IP, skills, vendor inputs, etc. to see how they might be repurposed or redesigned. “What products and services could we offer that will help people cope better, or even thrive, as industrial consumer societies evolve? What is our desired future for our organization? What actions can we take now to pull that future into our present?”


Cooperate and Collaborate


The impacts of our climate crisis are so pervasive and far reaching, they can’t be successfully addressed by any single organization. So, it’s essential to cooperate and collaborate. Ask relevant consumer groups, professional bodies, regulators, trade associations and unions to evolve to a real climate emergency stance, which includes societal disruptions. “How could stakeholders work with our organization to create mutually beneficial outcomes?”


Get Political


Equip and assist employees and other stakeholders to influence governments, media and NGOs with the aim of reducing harm from severe weather events and societal disruption. “As an organization, what influence could we have on promoting the transition to a carbon free circular economy?”


Situations will become increasingly difficult for most of us, so let’s be gentle and honest. Everything is open for change. Help people prepare themselves better for increasing material and psychological impacts. Accept the necessity of an employer addressing “climate safety” in the workplace. Help staff to prepare… practically and psychologically, for the coming impacts to their jobs, homes, families and communities.