As the leader of Northern Playground, I have had an uncertainty I have thought a lot about in recent years.
Before I get there, I need to give you some background info: Northern Playground's social mission is to reduce the consumption of clothing. And why is that? To contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We want to create a future where you buy a good pair of trousers every three years instead of three half-good trousers a year. So quite simply – we're going to help you change your habits so your footprint goes down.
Personally, I've changed my habits quite radically over the past few years. I hardly fly anymore, I hardly eat industrial meat, I buy less and less stuff and I live in a well-insulated apartment that I don't renovate. Except for the car (which I rarely use and almost always has passengers), I've made some pretty big adjustments to cut my own personal emissions. I'm not an angel by any means, but my habits have changed drastically.
Because as the founder of a company with large environmental ambitions, I believe that I must lead the way, also on a personal level. After all, good leadership is about setting a good example. Would NP have been credible if I had spent my vacation flying around the world?
So, back to my uncertainty.
Should the goal to reduce personal emissions also apply to the rest of the company. Is it ok for an employer to create principles for emissions outside of work for employees? For the board? Maybe even for investors?
Imagine how progressive it would be if we as a team agreed to never fly if taking the train was an option! But on the other end of the spectre, how destructive it would be if the workplace started dictating how you should live your life. They would start calling me Jo(sef) Stalin.
These thoughts have been buzzing around in my head for a long time and I have been in doubt about how to bring it up in the best possible way. I finally realized that the team has chosen to work for NP because of our vision. So, a couple of weeks ago I took a leap and decided to simply tell the truth: I'm very unsure how to talk about this.
I don't really know what I expected, but I feared they would think of it as another moralizing and very tiring input from me. Not only was I relieved, but a bit surprised that the topic did not create any controversy whatsoever. The conversation that followed was not about whether it was right or wrong, but about how we could relate to this in practice. Here are some of the questions and comments:
- Can we measure the reductions we make and talk about it openly to each other?
- Can we make the reductions visual for the rest of the team?
- It can be risky with do´s and don't's – it must be voluntary to work.
- It is better to measure reduction in emissions than total emissions. Total emissions can become stigmatizing.
- Can we get better at discussing among ourselves good measures are?
- Can the company better facilitate for employees to take the train instead of flying?
- It is important that we "live the brand."
- Can we borrow the climate book you refer to?
An immediate measure that was agreed upon is to share something environmentally smart we've done in the last week in each Monday meeting. We've already started and it doesn't feel awkward. And this weekend, Maja took her first concrete step by taking the train instead of flying to Copenhagen. 💪
I imagine this is just the beginning of a long and exciting discussion. I am both relieved and proud. At the same time, I'm still a little afraid of the potential negative implications that can arise when the workplace begins to interfere with personal life choices.
In addition, both the board and all 620 co-owners remain. How are we going to have the discussion with them?
Once in a while, one of the Northern Playground employees sends out a letter giving you an honest look behind the scenes of the company. We believe that transparency is an essential part of being a socially responsible company. This is the twentieth letter. Read the other one´s here. https://www.northernplayground.no/en/behind-the-scenes