As consultants, we have the unique opportunity to work with organisations to help identify, articulate and present solutions to problems. Something we don’t take lightly. Through design thinking, we support organisations to change over time — shaping structure, practices, teams, capabilities and business models. Our scope can be as wide as “make our organisation better”, which can mean anything from being more strategic, more efficient or more aligned with user needs.
With co-design at the core of our organisation design approach, we ensure that people within organisations and around them are active participants in helping shape what their new organising model will be. This includes senior officials who hold final decision-making rights to system partners required to support the services being offered to residents, and especially employees and residents themselves. All with the intention of building sustainability and in turn, accelerating success.
So if you think about it, we have an excellent platform to:
- understand the strong climate work already happening within organisations
- help people understand how current ways of operating impacts climate
- support leadership in embedding climate focus at a strategic level
So what are we specifically doing in relation to climate?
Often when we start working with an organisation, we begin an “as is” assessment, covering questions related to governance, culture, commissioning and many more. By looking at the “as is” we begin to identify what is happening in different areas of an organisation and start to understand what is working well and what needs improvement, and the key drivers behind this.
As you may expect, the climate has touchpoints across all aspects of an organisation. By incorporating a climate lens to our line of questioning, we have an opportunity from day one to uncover unknown problems, surface existing work that may not have great visibility and highlight opportunities.
Take procurement for example. Procurement policies and practices can be powerful levers in incentivising more sustainable business activities. This could be through explicitly including environmental considerations within service specifications, within the evaluation process (with the weighting of answers indicating to potential suppliers just how serious climate considerations are), and within contractual obligations, performance metrics and outcomes. It can also help organisations understand climate impacts across the lifetime of the project, taking into account changes in intended use, upgrades or any end of life considerations. Further, with the public sector being a significant purchaser of goods and services (in the UK, governments spending on procurement is nearly equivalent to 15% of national GDP), the impact potential is large.
Another example is when assessing an organisation’s ways of working. Climate challenges are multifaceted, and best tackled in a holistic way. This is where multidisciplinary teams who draw from a range of perspectives and skillsets are generally preferred over a more siloed approach. Also, understanding attitudes towards remote workings — something we are becoming much more familiar with during COVID-19 imposed lockdowns — and travel and the drivers behind these attitudes are important to determine just how far climate considerations affect ordinary decision-making processes.
As a team, we’re also being much more deliberate about using data and impact modelling throughout our service offerings, which can be repurposed to champion a better understanding of the true climate impact of decisions. How often have we been perpetrators of building a theory of change, without giving purposeful attention to what impact this intervention has on climate? We need to build climate into every theory of change and actively consider environmental impact as a standard area we measure alongside staffing, customers/residents and financial impacts.
By helping organisations and the people we work with think about climate across every aspect of their organisation, by talking openly about what this means and the impact it can create, it’s our hope that soon, clients will naturally assume that “make our organisation better” also includes “make our planet better”.