Climate change is everyone’s problem now. Sustainability is no longer an abstraction: it has a human face in Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist who scolded the United Nations in a passionate speech about earth’s grim future.

“You Have Stolen My Dreams”

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said to the UN September 23. “And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

She went on to remind delegates that the science of the past 30 years is clear: the future of the earth is at risk. And she is correct. According to a 2018 report from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world has only 12 years to contain global warming or else face catastrophic results. To avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change, the world must slash carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030; we must be carbon-free by 2050.

Who Leads – and How?

Who leads the charge? And how? These are difficult questions. Saving the earth is no single person or organization’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s job. But when a responsibility is shared by many, oftentimes no one steps up to own the problem. Well, people around the world have spoken: if anyone is going to take the lead, businesses are. According to Nielsen, 81 percent of people surveyed around the world feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

The Amazon Example

The industry leaders already are. Look at Amazon. The world’s most disruptive company is jolting other businesses into taking action. Amazon recently announced the Climate Pledge, which calls on signatories to be net zero carbon across their businesses by 2040, or a decade ahead of the Paris Accord’s goal of 2050. Signing the pledge means a company will:

  • Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis.
  • Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies.
  • Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

Amazon is all in. The company announced a number of initiatives to protect the Earth, such as the Right Now Climate Fund,  a $100 million commitment to restore and protect forests, wetlands, and peatlands around the world. Amazon also announced the order of 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, the largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles, with vans starting to deliver packages to customers in 2021. You can read more about Amazon’s efforts here.

Far-Reaching Change

Amazon’s sustainability commitment is far-reaching – as it should be for everyone. Sustainability requires businesses to rethink how they use their assets. The issue affects every fiber of a business, ranging from how it manages its supply chain to how it invests in AI. Which leads to the second issue: how? How does a company rally its resources around sustainability?

How to Get Started

Fortunately, tools exist to help companies tackle thorny problems such as this one. The purpose of a design sprint is to help people tackle problems that have no clear solution. They force an organization to break down large, abstract challenges into discrete, manageable ones.

With design sprints, cross-functional teams rapidly prototype products in five days or less. Organizations identify a problem they and their customers are trying to solve, come up with a rough solution, test the idea against feedback from real customers, and create a prototype of the minimum lovable product (the initial version of the product that can be created to generate the most customer love using the least amount of time and costing as little as possible).

Design sprints are not the answer to solving the world’s problems. But they give a business a way to understand where and how to get started. We typically work with organizations to do a series of design sprints, each focused on a single issue. The whole point is to make problems manageable; not make them go away.

Design sprints are a powerful way for an organization to test an idea in a way that mitigates cost and risk while keeping people at the center of the product design. At Moonshot, we use design sprints as part of a larger process known as FUEL, in which we go beyond concepting and actually help companies launch products. To learn more about how to get started applying design sprints to help you organization achieve a more sustainable future, contact us.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product