By Matt Bogoshian, Chief Strategy Officer, REV

Making productive change in the world has always been a top down and bottom up affair. Strong leadership at the uppermost levels is essential to set goals, design policy, and formulate plans. Collective action by those on the ground can inspire adoption and build momentum. In the case of building a more sustainable world, the fall of 2015 has been remarkable on both fronts.

Leadership Driving Change

At the international level, recently in September the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the world to achieve in the next 15 years. Addressing one of those goals, world leaders are also preparing now to meet next month in Paris for COP21 to craft top down plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Nationally here in the United States, the President’s Climate Action Plan is proceeding this fall on many fronts with more fuel efficiency standards and finalization of the Clean Power Plan to reduce GHG emissions from power plants. In California, top down leadership toward sustainability is making progress including public hearings and plans to distribute more than $1B of AB32’s Cap and Trade auction moneys to applied energy efficiency and renewable power solutions.


California Doing Its Part

dreamstime_s_6545178This October in Washington D.C., I attended an IMCP (Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership) economic summit hosted by the White House and the Department of Commerce. Local leaders who are implementing nationally recognized sustainable economic development plans shared best practices to produce better bottom up outcomes for the people and organizations in their communities.

Two of the 24 American regions that gathered in D.C. were from California and their appearance underscored the success of California’s efforts to add to the body of knowledge called sustainable economic development. In fact, California in part continued that work in earnest last week at the California Economic Summit held in Ontario California where regional leaders throughout the state shared their own examples of best practices for more sustainable economic development.

Motivating Bottom Up Change

Of course all of these top down efforts are important but they will never be enough until we do more to motivate bottom up behavior change at the organizational level. Building a more sustainable future for the world, our nation, and our communities will depend upon the pace that each of our organizations —whether profit making companies, for-benefit entities, governments, or non-profit groups — adopt more sustainable practices.

That is why last month’s Behavior Energy and Climate Conference in Sacramento also drew my attention. At the meeting, some of the world’s finest behavioral scientists and practitioners gathered to share their research about how we utilize the best of behavioral science to apply existing knowledge at the organization level. For example, why is it that even though we all know that energy efficiency saves money, so few of us actually take steps to adopt simple changes to achieve it? Behavioral science is showing us answers to these frustrating questions.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a more sustainable future will depend not only on enlightened top down leadership, but also, in large part, upon smarter application of behavioral science to scale bottom up adoption of sustainable practices.

Ever forward!