Want Your Business to Fight Climate Change? Aim for Progress, Not Perfection

bryn carey driving ski butlers van

I approached Bryn Carey from Ski Butlers about coming on the Localist podcast because I was impressed by their customer service. We did talk about that (and we also nerded out over business books and the Tim Ferris podcast), but before the podcast, when I asked Bryn what he wanted to talk about, he said the climate — and that led us down a pretty fascinating road.

Listen to my conversation with Ski Butlers on the Localist podcast!

Ski Butlers had just switched banks. Switching banks is annoying if you’re an individual, and it’s a huge headache if you’re a company — especially a company like Ski Butlers that has lots of locations, including international locations.

Why did they switch? Because Bryn found out that one way banks make money is by investing in fossil fuels. So, even though Ski Butlers had spent years trying to do the right thing by the environment and reducing their carbon footprint, their money was still going to fund something they were fighting against. Knowing what our money is supporting and changing our behavior so it’s doing something better is something I understand well — one big reason I like to buy locally is because it keeps money from being redistributed. I asked Bryn how Ski Butlers started making changes, and here’s what he shared:

First, learn

On the Ski Butlers website, there’s a timeline of when they started doing something about climate change, and on that timeline, they actually include starting to learn about climate change. I’ll admit that my first thought was that thinking didn’t count as action and didn’t belong on the timeline. But then I realized it was perfect, because I wish more of us (myself included) realized that learning about how to take action has value on its own.

Change low hanging fruit

When you’re talking about a subject like climate change (or buying local), the first thing you learn is that there is so much to do. Having your eyes opened can be extremely scary because everything seems overwhelming. On the podcast, Bryn says that a great place to start is with your low hanging fruit. Look at what your company is doing that can be changed fairly easily, and start there. I love this advice.

Learn more

I asked Bryn if being open about their climate journey left them open to attack — if people accused them of greenwashing. He said it did leave them open to people pointing out even more ways to change, but that wasn’t a bad thing. (For example, he mentioned that after he switched banks, someone told him that insurance companies work the same way, so now he’s sourcing ways to change that.) He says that the key to withstanding this is to prove over time that you’re committed. Now when people point out ways they could do better, he agrees and looks into those ideas — and because Ski Butlers has shown consistent progress, people are able to see more easily that they’re doing more than paying lip service.

Admit your vulnerabilities

It’s hard to change a business, especially when it also involves changing an entire problematic system. Bryn admitted that most of their fleet runs on fossil fuels, and that the point is not to hide from that, but to try to find alternatives. That might just mean one electric van right now. It might be that they fight the battle in other ways. But hiding things doesn’t work.

Finally, Take big steps

Once you’ve taken care of low hanging fruit, it’s time for big steps — but it’s usually best for a business to take those carefully and plan for how it’s going to impact your business. Changing banks was a big change for Ski Butlers, but Bryn and his team make a plan and set a goal, and they got it done.

Bryn says one place their commitment pays off is in the staff they get — he says, People are so excited to work for us because we stand for something. That doesn’t mean they have to be perfect, but it does mean they have to go through the steps of learning and changing continually.

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