Using Entrepreneurship Principles to Address Climate Risk

Sreshta Ravikumar

Author: Sreshta Ravikumar is a Master of Biotechnology student at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously completed a BS in Biotechnology at Rutgers University. Her interests lie at the intersection of science and business. 

Developing plans to address climate risk is similar to developing a new venture. To make strides against climate change, policies must be enacted to reduce emissions and make greater use of sustainable energy. A problem arises when those in charge of enacting policies and members of the general public resist the belief that climate change is occurring. This can happen for several reasons, including fear, group beliefs, or self-identity. To solve this issue, one needs to first understand and acknowledge people’s beliefs, then use arguments that target and change those beliefs.

One important principle in entrepreneurship is de-risking an idea. A key cause of denial is fear, and this could apply to climate change. Many arguments meant to spur people to act against climate risk phrase it as a threat to the survival of the planet and, by extension, humanity. Although such a statement is scientifically accurate, the fear of such a possibility may leave some unable to cope. Thus, they may choose to believe climate change is not real rather than live with the constant fear of impending doom. An additional perceived risk is that addressing climate risk will require significant change to our current socioeconomic structure and people’s perceptions of said structure. To address these risks, instead of emphasizing the existential crises posed by climate change, one can reframe climate solutions in ways that it not only upholds but even improves the current socioeconomic system. This can be done by focusing on the increased benefits to one’s health and community, and the prosperity that climate solutions can provide. For example, a reduction in air pollution levels would benefit the health of oneself, family, and friends by decreasing instances of cough, shortness of breath, and cardiovascular disease. Framing arguments in a hopeful and positive manner can remove perceived risks from climate change solutions.

Much like marketing a new product, the message conveyed must vary depending on the characteristics the target population. Customer segmenting is the process of identifying and appealing to the key traits of a group of people. For example, in the United States, key conservative values include loyalty and purity. If climate change arguments are phrased in terms of loyalty to and purity of the planet, those who identify with conservative beliefs may be more inclined to take heed. Religion is another key characteristic that can be used to shape climate change messages, with different religions having different views about nature. For example, some religions emphasize connection with nature, while others believe the planet is the creation of a higher being and therefore something to not be harmed. Religious leaders can convey climate risk messages in a way that appeals to those in their particular community. Framing climate change in terms of specific belief systems can go a long way in allowing people to perceive suggestions as beneficial.

Finally, word of mouth is instrumental in entrepreneurship. When one hears about an idea from someone they know, they are more likely to listen. People are more inclined to change their mind if the information comes from a trusted source, such as a community leader or a respected family member or friend. Therefore, even if only a handful of people respond to the methods described above, the message can still reach a wider audience through word of mouth.

To address climate risk, one needs to first address the inaction preventing change from taking place. The root cause of inaction must be identified. A specific message must be crafted for different groups of people and spread within communities. When more people are spurred to action, public opinion can allow governments to create policies to reduce climate risk and create a healthier planet.

Originally published on May 1, 2020.

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