Climate anxiety is a real threat to the financial industry
According to an article on the topic in the American Psychological Association, the definition of eco-anxiety (otherwise known as climate anxiety or environmental anxiety) is “a chronic fear of environmental doom”.
Which sounds pretty scary, even to someone who is not too bothered about our warming planet.
However, people – especially young people – are becoming more climate anxious. In a study by Bath University, which surveyed 10,000 children and young people between 16-25 across ten countries, found that 84% of respondents were worried about climate change – 59% of the total being extremely worried.
These young people also felt let down and betrayed by their governments, which can worsen anxiety as a feeling of impotence takes over. That feeling of powerlessness can increase pressure and lead people to feel disenfranchised and unable to act – it becomes a vicious cycle. This cyclical thinking can also lead to young people not being able to problem solve and think creatively – the exact skills we need to be cultivating in our young people if we are going to tackle this crisis head-on.
As much as it is a crisis affecting people and will cause displacement and extinction of many species, we are making progress in tackling so many of these issues. For example, transaction carbon management specialist Cogo partnered with Daze Aghaji, the environmental artistic consultant, to get the Royal College of Psychology to recognise anxiety related to climate as a real thing and a threat to young people.
Cogo also launched a climate series and in one of them Daze spoke openly about her climate justice activism and how this helped manage her eco-anxiety symptoms.
There is a case to be made for having a more positive outlook on the future of the human race and the planet we inhabit. People and organisations are making huge positive steps, but it is sometimes too easy to miss these as our attention is taken up by the panic-filled protest slogans and headlines. It’s a paradox – if we put too much attention into this, we feel unable to act.
And if this is hard for us, imagine how tough it is for a young person, seeing their peers holding slogans like “you’re gonna kill us all!” and “Earth will survive climate change, we won’t!”. As much as I fully respect the right to protest and the moves made to get more young people interested in and passionate about climate change – this needs to be balanced with creative, solutions-focused activism – activism that shows kids that things can change. That they can make that change happen.
So, where does your fintech organisation come into this?
If young people are being affected by the lack of perceived change in their governments, they need to see people and organisations making positive changes – and they will be loyal to those organisations that not only align with their values, but also act on those shared values.
This is where Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting and communication comes in. It is vital to not only work towards specific and actionable goals but also to effectively communicate your progress – to investors, customers and employees.
Taking action, then, has benefits beyond the immediate – not only do you get the result of the specific activity, but you also have the additional result of potentially influencing, energising and motivating young people to make a change. This change may lead to further positive benefits as the energised, positive, creative people who your action has impacted find themselves able to create more solutions and create their own positive actions.
The first step toward this snowball effect of positive change is taking action. I’ve written in a previous blog about how to write your first people and planet policies but to sum it up here:
- Analyse what your business does, which practices and policies already have a positive impact and where changes need to happen (utilise your staff for this idea-finding mission!)
- Create actionable goals and targets and then put them into practice
- Talk about your progress – let your customers, staff and investors know the changes you are making and your reasons for the changes
- Keep your goals achievable and be honest about the positives as well as the challenges of what you are doing
- Don’t be afraid to seek out help in creating and communicating these policies
If you put this into practice, you will inspire the people around you. Your staff will feel invigorated in knowing their work has a wider impact. You will increase loyalty in your customers and investors, who will know their involvement with you has a positive impact.
And fostering this positivity will be what helps your stakeholders (and you!) maintain positive mental health when dealing with these issues. It will keep the body out of a fight, flight or freeze response when faced with anxiety-inducing problems and keep you working towards a more constructive and fair future.
About the author
Gihan Hyde is the award-winning communication specialist and founder of CommUnique, an ESG communication start-up.
She has been implementing ESG campaigns in eight sectors, across six countries over the past 20 years.
Her campaigns have positively impacted over 150,000 employees and 200,000 customers and have closed over £300m in investment deals. Some of the clients she has advised include The World Health Organisation (WHO), HSBC, Barclays, M&S, SUEZ, Grundfos, Philip Morris, USAID, and the Saudi Government.