Mark Tercek team approach to the environment

What Will You Do To Accelerate Environmental Progress in 2021?

You Need a Game Plan to Make a Real Difference

The Quick Rundown:

The Instigator primarily focuses on environmental strategies for organizations. But individuals are integral to our cause too. This week, we focus on personal strategies for achieving environmental progress. 

2020 was a dismal year by most measures. And the first few weeks of 2021 haven’t been any better. But I’m an optimist and can’t help but see positive opportunities for environmental gains. I’m also pragmatic, and I know that nothing happens without a concerted effort and a detailed plan. So think of me as your coach. To win this game, we each need to develop and commit to our own personal environmental game plan. I want to encourage all Instigators to make this year one when we’re off the sidelines and in the game. Go team! 

Happy New Year

There is reason to believe that 2021 can be a very good year for environmental progress. Positive momentum is underway on Capitol Hill, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Main Street, and across NGOs. Here’s a sampling of positive indicators:  

  • Voters elected a new President who campaigned on climate.
  • Congress passed a bipartisan stimulus package with a great energy bill.
  • VCs are backing more exciting new climate tech startups than ever before.
  • Leading corporations are making truly bold climate commitments.
  • ESG funds are getting huge inflows of new investor dollars and outperforming the market.
  • Polling indicates more citizens understand the issue and support action. 

To take full advantage of this momentum, we need more highly engaged environmentalists. Readers of this newsletter are great supporters of environmental progress. Thank you. You’re doing more than most. But with a crisis of this magnitude, good intention and interest won’t get the job done. We all need to be agents of change.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds.  

I played football in high school and college. I remember admiring how my coaches could make our team better than it initially seemed we could be. Like all smart coaches, they did this by helping each of us identify and strengthen our comparative advantage and then designing plays that drew on those unique abilities. And of course, they deployed us as a team in ways that lined up with opportunities on the field.  

I also spent much of my career in the private sector. In business, when you want to achieve something—especially if it’s something ambitious—you don’t just talk about it or simply declare a goal. You come up with a series of moves designed to achieve success. You allocate resources to drive these activities. You determine milestones to measure progress.  You review results, rethink the next moves as appropriate, and iterate. You get feedback from colleagues to ensure you’re viewing things objectively.  And you keep the team focused and on track. 

So how exactly does one go about saving the planet? Same. You leverage your comparative advantage and devise a concrete game plan. You can start small—for most people, this cannot be a full-time commitment, and that’s okay. Strategies can (and should) be tailored to your strengths, resources, and time. And they will evolve as your life does. So let’s share our plans.

I’ll go first. 

I’ve been through this twice. The first time was when I left Goldman Sachs in mid-2008 and found my way to The Nature Conservancy. The second time, more recently, was when I left TNC in mid-2019. Both times I knew I wanted to keep working on achieving environmental progress. But what exactly would be the best way for me to do this? It wasn’t obvious. 

I’ve watched and helped others try to make transitions like this too. It takes work—and sometimes trial and error too—to figure this out. 

For my most recent transition, I did a lot of groundwork before making a decision. For example, I   

  • did a lot of careful thinking and reflection; 
  • talked with friends and mentors and got great advice and feedback;   
  • watched what others were doing and how they were accomplishing important outcomes;   
  • tried to identify where the big opportunities are right now and which ones might best align with me.  

And after all that, I concluded that I would draw on my two big professional experiences (24 years at Goldman Sachs, 11 years at TNC) and be a champion for private sector-led environmental initiatives.  

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