How to create more impact

Tags: Finance, Impact

On Tuesday 7 th of January I attended my first ‘Sustainability and Impact Club’ meeting, where we talked about on how to have more impact. There were eight of us, which is a good size for open and active discussion without being swamped by too large size of the group.

At first, we introduced ourselves and then discussed about what is a positive impact, and what positive, sustainable impact each of us have created. Eva Wissenz, the teacher of the group and the creator of Sustainability and Impact Club, defined the positive impact as a combination of desire to change, action and positivity. For maximum positive change, I would also add knowledge to the list; we humans like to (at least) think ourselves as rational actors. For maximum impact, action should speak to the hearts (desire to change) and minds (knowledge) of the listeners, making then feel good about the change (positivity). Thus my definition of a positive impact would be: an action based on careful, rational thought, desire to change and positivity creates a positive impact.

For positive impact, the positivity of the action is paramount. To me, many environmental activists project their own fears into the action, forgoing positivity. Fear does have ability to induce change, but the research has shown that experience of fear “cause adherence to known situations and avoidance of risk, uncertainty and novel situations; it tend to cause cognitive freezing, which prevents openness to new ideas” (Bar-Tal, 2011). Fear short circuits the rational, thinking part of the mind, and fearful people can even act aggressively. With enormity of the challenge with changing climate, we need to lay out hopeful, rational scenarios of positive change, not to fan the flames of mass hysteria.

What are actions that I could take in my daily life for positive impact? What new habit should I form that are based on careful, rational thought, desire to change and positivity? Here’s my list of 3 things that could have positive impact:
1. Go vegan. Although I’m already vegetarian, veganism has even smaller CO 2 footprint
and is on sounder ethical base than vegetarianism.
2. Daily gratitude journal – counting my blessings every day by writing. I think the
gratitude would emanate from this action of journal writing into my wider life,
positively affecting my actions.
3. Learn and understand sustainable ways to become an expert and a leader. Expertise does matter. With right know-how, you can more effectively create a positive impact.

Eva also asked us, the students, to choose a small challenge: an easy personal issue, that we would like to solve in our lives. I worked in renewable energy consultancy which provided transactional services for banks, project developers and investors. Working in the consultancy made me understand that the main problems in decarbonising the global energy system are not technical, but financial; how to provide enough incentives for investors to provide capital for the renewable energy projects that currently earn lower returns than a typical oil and gas project.
This prompted my interest in sustainable finance; how investors see the sustainable merits as incentives and how to change the paradigm from financial profit maximization to maximization of triple bottom line (financial, environmental and social value).

Niilo Montonen (Jan. 2020)