ICRS Fellows Hub: Walking the Talk vs Guilty Secrets

It's not easy being green.

Last week, ICRS Fellows got together to discuss a topic relevant to every single one of us. Green guilt.

As champions of sustainability, shouldn't we always behave like role models, choose the sustainable option, choose a vegan lifestyle, use public transport and say no to air travel?

As we seek to influence, don't those we try to persuade have the right to hold us to the highest possible standards?


And we should also ask what expectations we have of ourselves. Because we, too, might sometimes crave the meat burger, want to spend our holidays in faraway places or want to drive a car.

In true Fellows Hub style, attendees split into breakout groups to discuss this tension between walking the talk as CRS professionals and our very own guilty secrets.

The conversations were lively and rich and looked at the issues from various angles.

Here are some of the questions Fellows considered:

  • What's the right balance between positioning ourselves as role models versus emphasising that we are imperfect, just like everyone else?
  • What role does our privilege play in our expectations of others? For example, possessing certain privileges such as disposable income, knowledge, and education makes sustainable choices easier for some. Yet, increasing numbers worry every day about making ends meet. So how can we drive change and empower everyone to make better choices while acknowledging the role of class privilege?
  • We're often faced with wilful ignorance where others happily leave the solutions to the big sustainability challenges to us as CRS professionals. This is a heavy burden as we simply can't live everyone else's sustainable life for them.
  • How do we balance climate consideration with other needs, such as social and family obligations?
  • Are we letting ourselves off the hook too easily, thinking we have 'done our bit' because we have bought the hybrid car or are using renewable energy?
  • Adults are often guilty of cognitive dissonance, and children often challenge us to live up to higher standards. So how do we have meaningful conversations with them about sustainability in all its complexity?

Let’s remember that we can be both imperfect and a force for change and good

Kirsty Green-Mann, ICRS Fellows Hub Steering Committee Member

Fellows also identified some strategies for coping with these tensions:

  • Remember, something is better than nothing. So instead, doing our best most of the time is better than not doing anything at all.
  • When green guilt creeps in, we remind ourselves of all our good choices and allow ourselves to feel good about those, using this to find renewed motivation.
  • Acknowledge that sometimes the end justifies the means. For example, getting on a plane for an important meeting that could result in meaningful change.
  • Recognise that organisational cultures and personalities vary and that a purist and evangelising approach is often ineffective in bringing people along.
  • Define a personal carbon budget and spend it intentionally on the things we value most.
  • Acknowledge the intersectionality and complex nature of our choices and needs beyond just climate-related decisions.
  • Remember that no person or organisation always gets everything right, but we can always work on getting better.
  • Being clear on what we can influence and what's outside of our control.