How to run a successful Climate Race with Jeremy Brackpool, Director of Strategy and Chief Greenie, at Elsevier, part of RELX

Employees from across five global companies recently took part in the RELX Climate Race, a month-long initiative designed to educate, inspire and encourage people to take climate action together. The results were inspiring; 880 people joined the challenge and in just 4 weeks, completed 2,612 steps!

Overall, this equated to 150,000kg of carbon reduction commitments, over 5 million litres of water savings and 30,000 fewer items of single use plastic required.

As a result of this incredible achievement, we asked Jeremy, part of the organising group, to share his tips and insights about what worked, what he learnt and what motivates him to help people learn what they can do for the planet.

What motivates Jeremy to step up for the planet.

Thoughtful, driven, considered are just a few words that come to mind to describe Jeremy. It’s this drive that makes Jeremy turn to sustainable solutions in both his work and his personal life.

“Fundamentally I’m driven by fear if I’m really honest. I have young children and the path humanity is on will mean that by 2050 there will be hundreds of millions if not over a billion climate refugees. The repercussions will affect every single person on this planet, including my family.”

Like many of us, looking to the future can be scary and overwhelming at times. But Jeremy reminds us that individual action is an essential part of the solution, as it’s simply not possible for governments to solve this alone.

And it’s this that led him to advocate for running the RELX Climate Race and helping to build sustainable behaviours for not only his own colleagues at Elsevier, but employees from RX, Lexis Nexis, Risk Solutions Group and RELX Corporate. Over 800 people across the group took part, and the results were impressive.

It’s not just in work that Jeremy helps people to live more sustainably. He works a four-day week and uses the extra day to help people living in his local community to better understand the climate and support them to make more climate friendly choices. “There’s a lot that I do on my days off that inspires me to try things within my workplace!” For him, living sustainably isn’t a tick box for his job; it’s an evolving and considered aspect of his and his family’s lifestyle that will lead to a better future for us all.

Jeremy was the guest speaker at our June 2023 Chief Greenie session, a monthly meeting to bring fellow greenies together to learn and enact change in their businesses, hosted by Giki’s Co-Founder, Jo Hand.

Jo started off by asking him about why the thought a four week Giki challenge would be best.

“We knew the hardest part about the challenge would be reaching people to get them to participate, so we wanted to run it across only four weeks to justify more communications and get cut through, allowing us to get Giki in front of more people in the business. A four week challenge also encourages people to act, while giving them just long enough to try to tackle some of the harder things.

Another reason was that our internal organising group was made up of people doing this in addition to their day job. It’s much easier to ask them to find time to work on the project over a month or two, compared to an ongoing basis.”

How did you get people to sign up to the challenge and how did you keep up momentum once they were signed up?

“We had a lot of senior leadership support and encouragement for the challenge. Senior managers made a personal statement about why they’re taking part and why this is important to them. This helped drive sign up within each of their teams.

I do think it’s harder to get people to sign up than take steps. Some people are hesitant to sign up because they are scared. They don’t want their employer looking at their home life, or to look bad in front of my colleagues. Having a senior manager leading the way gives people confidence to follow.

We worked closely with our comms team to promote the challenge and also keep up momentum. To generate sign-ups we used messaging that in the opening paragraph tapped into people’s fear for the future, just enough to get people’s attention, and from then on it was all positive, positive, positive about the benefits of taking part.

We wanted to make it a group effort, a collective experience, to help everyone build an understanding and remind people that being worried is okay but here’s how you can take action. It was colleagues standing together for the climate, not a competition against one another.

At the end of the challenge, you decided not to give out a prize. Can you tell us about your reasoning behind this?

We wanted people to be motivated by intrinsic reasons, because they want to do their bit to stop the climate crisis. People won’t do difficult lifestyle changes for a £15 book token! The prize is a better future.

We also felt that having a small prize would diminish the significance of people’s actions and may demotivate those not near the top of the leader board.

And lastly, what’s one piece of advice you’d have for any fellow Chief Greenies?

My one big piece of advice is to get senior management support. Sure, you can run something without them, but unless you’re a very small organisation, you’re probably not going to be able to reach the people you want to reach. Without senior management to unlock communication opportunities and social norm taking part, you may well only reach those who are already engaged in sustainability, who typically already live in climate friendly ways.

Engaging a senior person isn’t always easy though and so it’s important to find someone with a relationship that can help you. When you do get two minutes in front of them I think it is critical to think not just about the sustainability benefits, but also the benefits to the organisation. Employees value having access to Giki. Plus having a clued-up workforce is a key enabler for an organisation to reduce their own climate impact, which is increasingly an expectation of shareholders and stakeholders. Giki can really help with this!

Jeremy’s calm and considered approach to this month-long challenge led to great behaviour change for many of the people who took part. Challenges are a great way to engage your team and encourage them to take action for the planet. If you are interested in running your own challenge, contact your Impact Director. If you are reading this and new to the Giki employee engagement programme, you can find out more here.