POW Summit 2022: climate advocacy in the face of adversity
This year's Summit took place in the beautiful mountain scenery of Engelberg. POW brought together over 60 individuals of the outdoor community to engage for meaningful climate action.
You don't need to be perfect to be a climate activist
Our annual Summit brings together the core group of POW and strengthens the connection between all the actors of the outdoor industry. Not only athletes presented how they can have an impact on climate change but also brands, business leaders, scientists, media, and policymakers. The Summit allowed for productive but also critical discussions from which exciting ideas have developed for future action.
The Summit started off on Thursday evening gathering around the fire with welcoming remarks from the POW president of the board, Jan Schlink. This was followed by an amazing dinner with local food from OFYR, cooked on the outdoor fire. Friday morning kicked off early with breakfast at the Mountain CoWorking Rocks. We were lucky to enjoy the beautiful panorama from sunny Brunni for lunch and a small hike. After a political and scientific input in the afternoon, we closed the first day of the Summit with a generous apéro and dinner at the Ski Lodge Engelberg.
On Saturday morning, the focus was on the athletes and their journey as climate advocates. A final open discussion addressed key challenges, but also opportunities for the POW community towards climate action. The Summit ended with outdoor activities such as biking, running, and climbing that once again showed the passion that unites us as a community and why we need to act to preserve what we love.
Athletes and brands engaging in (imperfect) advocacy
With regards to brands and athletes, a lot has happened in recent years in terms of how they deal with political issues, especially climate change and sustainability. But engaging in such political topics is not always easy neither for brands nor for athletes.
As Greg Nieuwenhuys, Chairman of the Board of Mammut said: «Climate advocacy is a balancing act between different speed-levels of transformation». This includes individuals, corporations, organizations and governments. Taking a position also means that a brand makes itself vulnerable for negative feedback from the outside. However, brands can no longer shy away from speaking out. What became clear throughout the Summit was that brands don’t need and cannot be perfect in every aspect. In these crucial times we need the entire outdoor community to speak out and to make bold changes and continuously improve and to be transparent about their progress.
Several examples were presented in the panel discussion with Elgin Brunner, WWF, Michelle Gisin, POW ambassador, Marc Maurer, On Running and Manuel Rotzinger from IKEA. What became clear is that it needs everyone to reach the common goal. This also includes the media, whereby their role is crucial. This importance of the media within the context of climate change was presented right after with an entertaining presentation by Arthur Honegger from 10vor10.
But also athletes are part of this. However, as Michelle Gisin, Laurent de Martin and Sarah Hoefflin revealed their experiences about how they became climate advocates, their journeys weren’t always easy. They faced repercussions from their community and conflicts within themselves. As a high-performance athlete, it is difficult to live a life with a low carbon footprint and in harmony with nature. Their lifestyles are not always perfect. However, in showing small steps that they are taking and what others can do too, in talking about the problem with a smaller or bigger audience, in encouraging others to speak up too, as well as in choosing sponsors that stand up for climate protection, lies big potential to activating others for change.
Trying the best you can do, finding your own way to do it as an individual, as an athlete or as a brand is what POW’s imperfect advocacy stands for. Nevertheless, we cannot forget the bigger picture as individual change is not enough to curb climate change.
The political context in Switzerland and its importance for POW
We need governmental decisions that entail a systematic transformation. And it’s not too late yet. As Tony Patt, Professor at ETH Zürich presented, the only way we will reach net zero by 2050 is if we change the way of producing the energy we use. The condition is that we switch from carbon-based energy production to carbon-neutral sources of energy in the next few years. This is possible. However, it needs sustained efforts and stronger policies.
In 2023 we will face important elections. Franziska Ryser, National Councilor of the Green Party gave an overview on current climate policy in Switzerland. The situation with the Ukraine war over the last few months put the topic of energy supply through fossil fuels further into the spotlight and showed that a change of the current energy supply is needed. «We know the solution», says Franziska Ryser. It lies in the reduction of fossil fuel and increase of solar and wind energy. However, although in the past parliament hadn't done enough yet, something is changing. The solar law that was passed last fall shows this quite impressively.
The Summit brought together diverse people with a common goal and strengthened the ties within the outdoor community. The result? That we can reach a large audience as well as different target groups when we act as a community. One of the big takeaways from the Summit is that we have to address people who have a different socio-political background and may not necessarily always agree with our point of view. This is extremely important because «preaching to the converted» only has a marginal effect. We must tap into those voters who think differently. A big issue we uncovered is that the language and advocacy they are confronted with, often paints a polarised picture in which you either care or don't care about sustainability and our environment, which is usually not the case. One thing is clear: individual action is not enough. In order for us to curb climate change, and put Switzerland on the right track, we need to scale up renewable energies such as PV and wind, as well as improve storage capacities. Overall, it is vital to fundamentally transform these five systems: transport, energy, building, fuels, and agriculture.
Nobody is perfect, but everyone can do something. Advocacy is the most important tool we have to make the change we need. We cannot continue to point fingers at individuals. We need to focus on the bigger picture to achieve the system change we need. POW and its network will need to rely on its manyfold stakeholders for the upcoming political challenges and the upcoming elections in Fall 2023. It’s not too late. Change is possible, but we must act now!
Last but not least we want to thank all of the participants and partners that made this year’s Summit possible:
The speakers for bringing up such important topics and ideas to discuss
Lea Grüter for moderating the event