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Embracing the Eco-Curious

An unexpected skiing analogy to explain why welcoming (not shaming) sustainability newcomers is what the movement needs.

Over the past few years, the world has experienced a surge in interest around sustainability. From recent graduates to seasoned business executives, this interest has translated into a wave of professionals stepping into the world of environmental impact for the first time. For the most part, these newcomers have been welcomed with open arms by those already in the sustainability space. However, some have expressed being shamed for being “late to the party” or only jumping on a bandwagon.

This article is a formal plea to those deep in the space to welcome the eco-curious.


To simplify and to perhaps remove some of the emotion linked with ESG, let us compare this to a more neutral topic: skiing.

If you have spent time out on the hills, you likely quickly understood the direct correlation between the number of skiers at a given mountain and local investments. From better staff to cleaner facilities to better equipment, more traffic means more resources. This positive impact often even extends to adjacent communities, with everything from better nearby hotels, cleaner parks, and greater restaurants. The same concept can be applied to the sustainability space. As the talent pool looks for job opportunities at values-based organizations and customers look to purchase from responsible companies, investments will flow to those meeting these criteria. 

Experienced skiers also have the opportunity to help guide those newbies on the hill. From proper form to how to get off the ski lift to which runs to avoid, it feels good to know you are helping someone out on their learning journey. Furthermore, we all know that nothing deepens our understanding of a given topic more than having to teach it to someone else, otherwise known as the Protégé Effect. The same logic can be applied to sustainability. Have you spent the last 30 years working in conservation? Think about how you can help distill this deep knowledge into something accessible to someone just getting started. An expert on energy efficiency? Share what has worked for you over the years, as well as what roadblocks you wish you had known about as you were just getting started. 

On the flip side, what do new skiers bring to seasoned pass-holders? For anyone who has introduced someone new to the sport, you know how energizing it is to see the experience through fresh eyes. The awe and excitement are contagious, and often reminds us as to why we got started in the first place. This same concept can absolutely be applied to environmental impact. For those of us working in sustainability, we can often get bogged down in the regulatory, messaging and data work. Transformation is laborious, and we are often at the heart of it. Having an eco-curious colleague or volunteer introduced to your ecosystem means that you have the opportunity to reconnect to your why, reignite your energy and recommit to the work.

Of course, there are times when, as an advanced skier, you cross paths with someone out of their depth on an advanced slope. Instead of dismissing them and telling them to take the lift back down, you can again use this as a learning opportunity. Share tips on safely navigating the hill, and gently remind them of some of the rules of sharing a run. In doing so, you increase the likelihood of them sticking to and improving in the sport. We can do the same with the eco-curious. I personally had to coach myself through this a few years back when I saw many corporations attending COP (the UN’s United Nations Climate Change Conference). My initial instinct was to push back on these companies attending, feeling like this was a platform for governmental and nonprofit organizations only. However, after further reflection, I realized that there really is space for everyone: while negotiations are indeed best reserved for those scientific and legislative experts, there is space for comments and adjacent activities from businesses that will help to increase the velocity of deploying sustainable solutions at scale. Encouraging interaction between the groups while respecting individual areas of expertise will likely help the broader group move the environmental needle.

The above is not to downplay the seriousness nature or urgency with which we need meaningful environmental action. My intent with this neutral skiing analogy is to help us all see the benefit of embracing those new to any area, including the eco-curious! In doing so, we can speed up both the number of folks joining us, as well as the learning curve: something that will benefit all of us working in sustainability. Because, after all, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

Lauren Scott
Vice-President, Marketing & Sustainability, Acuity Brands‘ Intelligent Spaces Group
Host, The Resilience Report Podcast


Whether you are a seasoned sustainability professional or an eco-curious individual, the upcoming AHR in Chicago promises to have some exciting ESG panels lined up. Be sure to check out for all of the latest details as they get shared, and to join us January 22-24 at McCormick Place.