Kate Weinberg has more than 15 years of experience in strategic sustainability and climate change as a consultant, manager and lawyer.
After joining green energy supplier OVO last year as director of sustainability, she oversaw the development of the company’s first ‘Plan Zero’ sustainability strategy, which sets a target to both achieve net zero emissions within the company as well as halve the carbon footprint of its customers by 2030.
Why do you think we need green radicals at a time like this?
Our generation is living through an exciting time. We get to be the people creating change and driving actions that will stop global warming. It’s no longer radical to argue that climate change exists, or that we need to do something about it. It’s now radical to create and adopt the practical solutions, new policies and new approaches we need to drive progress.
The recent news that renewable energy in the UK has just generated more electricity than fossil fuels for the first time since the Industrial Revolution illustrates some of the work we’ve done. But the switch to renewables is, in many ways, the easy part. Now, the hard work must begin. We all, in a sense, must become green radicals.
The UK reaching zero carbon will require changing the behaviour of tens of millions of people across the country, from all walks of life and from all political persuasions.
How would you define a green radical?
Green radicals, to me, are the people leading on doing and solving. It’s people who see limitless opportunity in a new, green world. Whether this means leaders who set new directions for their businesses and political parties or employees and voters who drive grassroots change from within their neighbourhoods or departments; green solutions can and should come from everywhere.
How has your organisation taken a radical approach to environmental action?
We want to move even faster to create a world without carbon emissions, and we’ve fundamentally restructured our business to help deliver this.
Our new direction a OVO Energy is set forth in a strategic plan we’re calling Plan Zero, a radical approach to achieving net zero. While many companies are engaging with climate change at an operational level, we are transforming not only our operations but also our products and customers around achieving net zero emissions.
The most significant change we’re making is in creating a collective, or membership, of individuals committed to reducing carbon emissions. This doesn’t mean just calling our customers a new name. It means we are developing new products that actively help members understand their own carbon impact, take action, celebrate their wins and engage with us and each other as a collective, beyond the mere sales of kilowatt hours.
What’s the secret to taking a radical idea mainstream?
The answer to getting any idea into the mainstream is to ask the question: will this solution, whatever it may be, make a consumer’s life better, easier, simpler?
If there is a better product or a service that becomes so intricately useful to a consumer, and that product is then also the cheaper and greener alternative – that is a win.
Take the example of Tesla. What might have started as a niche-market purchase for climate enthusiasts, has come to be seen as a better choice of car. It drives better, handles the road better, and the fact that it is also helping to decarbonise personal travel is just the icing on top.
Tesla became the compelling proof of concept needed to drive demand. Getting electric vehicles into the mainstream, now, is about continuing to drive affordability and access.
How do you build the business case for radical change?
Ideally, you make sure that the business case for radical change is the same business case for a successful profitable business. When you create a culture where acting in the interest of the environment, your customers and your employees is simply understood as the best way to build long-term growth, there are few that need convincing along the way.
Do you regard yourself organisation as a green radical?
I’ve spent my entire career working to achieve a low carbon, sustainable world. I’ve campaigned, advised governments, debated with business leaders, and organised teams of lawyers at climate summits.
So yes, I would call myself a deep green. But that isn’t enough – we need every individual to become a ‘green radical’ and start taking action.
So at OVO we want to inspire people to make lower carbon choices in their everyday lives, starting right now. We’ve radically changed how our entire business works to tackle the climate crisis.
We’ve launched a new strategy – Plan Zero – that sets out how we will get to net zero by 2030 and it’s not just about our business, it’s about taking our customers on that journey too. It fundamentally changes the direction of OVO, reorganising the business around putting less carbon into the atmosphere and upholds the premise that business should create value for the communities they serve.
I’m really proud to work for a company that is prepared to be radical, and I’m more inspired than ever about the role business can play as a catalyst to change.
This interview forms part of a series of interviews that were published in a new report, New Green Radicals: The business leaders responding to the climate emergency. The report follows last year’s ‘Meet the Disruptors’ and 2017’s ‘Secrets of the Pioneers’ reports, and this year features interviews with entrepreneurs, leaders and creators who are providing radical solutions to the climate crisis.
The report is produced by Greenhouse PR in association with BusinessGreen and was launched at the BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit on October 23rd. Follow live on social media with #NewGreenRadicals.
At Greenhouse, we support a wide variety of organisations pioneering climate action. Whether it’s fashion, finance or farming, if you’ve got a great story and need our help to tell it, get in touch with the Greenhouse team on 0117 214 1250 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.