#016 Ingmar Rentzhog: on saving the planet while making money & peace in the climate war
Can we make money while saving the planet? How important is social media for the climate movement? What challenges stand in the way of making sustainability a global movement? Big questions that we are deep diving into with Ingmar Rentzhog, founder of We Don’t Have Time, the world’s largest social network for climate action, and the first reporter to share about Greta Thunberg’s demonstrations.
Ingmar Rentzhog, was named the green Mark Zuckerberg by FranceTV2 and is the CEO and founder of We Don’t Have Time, the world’s largest social network for Climate Action. By teaming up with Twitter and the UN, We Don’t Have Time is reaching millions around the globe… but to do what? We Don’t Have Time is in the business of using social media for good: keeping corporations and governments accountable. He founded the organisation because some time ago, he realised that world leaders, the powerful people leading these corporations and governments, won’t solve the climate crisis. But we need to hold them accountable anyway, so how can we do that? With this question in mind, We Don’t Have Time was born, to empower everyday individuals to push those in power to do more.
For his work with We Don’t Have Time, Ingmar is one of our Green Warriors this year. (The Green Warriors list is our annual list of change makers, this year from around the world and not just in Asia, who are shaking things up on sustainability and modelling the way in their communities, or even on an international level.)
In this interview, we talk about shifting the balance to reward doing the right thing, why knowledge is the biggest tool we have, and how to look at saving the planet through a different lens, and more. You can listen to the whole conversation on the Live Wide Awake podcast here or read the highlights below.
On what We Don’t Have Time is and how it’s different…
What We Don’t Have Time is all about is connecting people around the world and have them work together in order to solve the climate crisis. What I was looking for was something that could create fast, global change. And what has succeeded with that before is social media networks. In only 10-15 years, social media has changed the whole world—for better or worse. My idea was to use social media technology to be part of the solution and help our leaders to do the right thing. What we have built is a social network platform where our members can collaborate and communicate directly with the leaders in power, corporate leaders, board leaders, etc.
Our social network is different from other networks because with We Don’t Have Time, we don’t discuss about the leaders, we are discussing with the leaders. And I think that’s the only way we can have them change. We need to change together: it’s not about us, or them. This is about all of us; we need to have a dialogue and listen to each other to make change happen.
On facilitating dialogues with CEOs, Presidents and the people…
Now we’re really picking up pace and getting a lot more answers from a lot of important people. Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, for example, has answered a climate warning on our platform. Anyone from corporate leaders to environment ministers to Norway for example. But it’s not just about telling leaders about what they do, whether it’s good or bad.
We also have a review system, which allows members to give out ideas. That’s about how to do something in a new way that can be implemented at scale if you give it to a large organisation. One example that we got an answer from Jeff Bezos after our community gave [Amazon] an idea about how they can do better for the climate. He—or to be honest, his assistant—answered that his business development team is looking into this idea now. This is a great tool because if companies know that many people want something, that’s often also a good business opportunity so they can solve problems while being financially motivated too.
Additionally, this works because we’ve built it so that members can initiate the climate dialogue, and amplify that on other social media. channels. That’s why more and more businesses and leaders that have been called on our platform must answer because they wouldn’t like it when suddenly everyone is discussing what they’re doing badly. Or on the other hand, they do like it if everyone is discussing what they do that’s good. That’s another way our platform differs from others. Most of the content on our platform is actually sharing the love: giving credit to those that are doing the right thing, to share about what they do.
On saving the planet while making money…
I firmly believe that if we’re going to solve the climate crisis, we must make it into the best business opportunity in the world. This is what’s wrong with capitalism today: it’s rewarding the bad stuff. If you’re doing the good stuff, it’s more expensive, and you make less profit. One of We Don’t Have Time’s main objectives is to change that, and flip that so that we’ll be more successful, and more rewarded to do the right thing, and make it such that it’s super expensive to do the wrong thing. That’s what our revenue system is all about. To make it transparent, so people know that those who are doing the right thing are given credit for it.
There are two reasons why we structured We Don’t Have Time as a company. The first is that I’m an entrepreneur, I don’t know how to be a non-profit organisation. The other reason is to prove that you can make something really successful while doing good for the climate. We want to be a good example that you can make a lot of money out of doing good climate action so that more companies will do the same.
We have one special structure in our company. That’s that the main owner of the company is not me, nor is it my co-founder. We actually donate our founding shares to a non-profit organisation that we’ve founded to preserve the cause of the company, to protect us from being influenced by a Big Oil company or a Big Tech company that will transform our platform to be about something else. We are for-profit, but we’ve protected the cause of our company.
On the challenges the movement is facing…
What we need is more people on board. More people are starting to be engaged in climate issues. But if you take a room of a hundred people, the majority will be worried about the climate, but only a few are acting on it. So we need to take those few people in that room, and connect them with other people in other rooms. We need this critical mass that will inspire everyone to follow and join in. Because we humans are programmed in such a way that we do what other people do. If most people are not acting on the problem, we will not act on the problem. So we need to take those at the forefront, connect them, build this critical mass, and drag everyone else in on the movement.
The important thing is to not make enemies. We must be inclusive, and invite the people who have been doing the wrong thing in history—because all of us have been doing the wrong thing—and have them join in on the action. Of course, we have some enemies in the climate movement, and we must be aware of that, but those are really few.
On how to activate those who don’t act…
I think we need to empower them and get them involved. The weapon to do that is knowledge. They need information, so we need to educate people about the problem, so they won’t feel like they can’t have an opinion about it. It’s not super complicated, but if you’re not into the climate issue, it’s very hard to get going. We need to have a big information campaign about why, and how we need to change. And also that we have the solutions. We can’t just focus on the problems, because we also need to give people hope. So one thing I would like the governments and big companies to do is to inform their customers, their voters about this problem.
And this is how we’ve actually succeeded with the coronavirus situation. I mean all countries, or most countries, the news stations, are all talking about the coronavirus every single day. So people know that they need to get vaccinated, to practice social distancing. We need to take that example and do the same thing for the climate. And it’s the leaders that need to guide us. So if I were the new president in the US, I would hold press gatherings at least every week, about the climate issue and the progress made, because that will influence so many more to get in on the action.
On whether there’s consensus on what needs to be done first…
No, we definitely don’t. Sometimes when you’re a professional working in the field, you make the field much more complicated than it actually is. This isn’t a complicated problem: we are emitting too much greenhouse gases, and we need to limit that. Even a child can understand the problem. But [what we have is different approaches of how to solve it. That’s why it’s important to educate people, so more people get involved and more people can raise their voices on how to solve it. We don’t need to agree on all the solutions. We just need to move forward and talk about the solutions and try different solutions and get the action started.
I don’t think anyone on this planet knows how to solve the climate crisis, but I think that we will solve the climate crisis if more people start to try solving it in different ways. What we can debate and discuss is the more and less efficient ways of solving the problem. But the point is that we need to start with engaging people to have a dialogue about it.
On sustainability not being a “youth” movement…
It shouldn’t have to be this way. It’s not the youth that needs to solve this. It’s grownups, we need to take responsibility and solve this crisis. Greta and the youth are involved, but it shouldn’t be that way… it’s wrong. They shouldn’t have the weight on their shoulders. We should, because we have failed. So now we must take responsibility and do what is needed to be done.
As adults where to start is actually thinking about what you’re doing with your time. What you do every day, what kind of work are you going to, are you doing something that’s helping the world to improve, or are you doing something that is making everything worse. So start thinking about how you spend your time and try to use your time to do good. And this is really important because you don’t need to be rich.
It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. Everyone has 24 hours per day and they can use it in a better way or a worse way. You don’t need to be perfect. You can just start to improve how you use the time. Everyone can do that. So use your time very, very wisely, because that is something we can’t buy. We can’t buy time and we need to act while we still have time to act. We don’t have time to wait.
Three things I’m taking away from this conversation with Ingmar
1. We need to reward doing the right thing, and make it more expensive to do the wrong thing.
2. Knowledge is the biggest tool we have and when we focus on solutions, we give people hope.
3. Let’s focus on making the movement more inclusive so everyone feels they are part of it and can make a difference.