Synergy: noun syn·er·gy \ˈsi-nər-jē\ a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (such as resources or efforts).

The biggest threat the inhabitants of this planet have ever faced is impossible to tackle individually. Period. The real challenge of climate change is not our understanding of it, its complexity, or the technological advancements needed to tackle it. The problem is the level and scale of coordination required. The climate crisis is very clear: cooperate or face very scary, irreversible, consequences.  

Cooperation > Competition

Across the globe, there are people and communities doing really great stuff. Wherever there are humans, there are people with the ingenuity and inspiration to assess our impact on the planet and find ways to reduce it. How can we harness the creative genius of individuals scattered across all time zones? How can we enable these people to their best work for our planet and its inhabitants, instead of spending lots of time focused on marketing and covering costs? One big step towards this goal is gathering all these changemakers under a unified banner for their common cause.   

Symbiosis in nature with sharks

Even sharks need friends. (Credit: Peter Koelbl)

For a long time now, the dominant philosophy has been forcing the notion that competition is the key to success. This has, indeed, built the fastest car and the biggest quarterly profits for shareholders. 

“There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits”

Milton Friedman

But competition, by definition, leaves many behind and the race for success often comes along with a wide range of costs. Opening doors to a diverse range of partners can bring a multitude of benefits, and it works. Since the 1990s, businesses have been partnering with NGOs in increasingly significant and productive ways. For example, the Ethical Trading Initiative brings together businesses, NGOs and trade unions to address complex global supply chains and the abuses of human rights they can contain. 

Collaborations can bring credibility, marketing benefits, expertise, innovation and networks to those stakeholders involved. The best collaborations involve a balanced exchange of these elements to produce better results for everybody – whether human, organisational or environmental.

Symbiosis for climate change

Clownfish use stingy anemones to shelter (Credit: Jan Derk)

In the field of climate change and environmental work, it is clear that little will be achieved without cooperation. In the same way that putting an IKEA bed together solo is a risky and potentially disastrous endeavour, tackling the environmental impacts of our species on an individual and even country level are not productive. It’s cooperation time, folks. The era of unrestrained competition is coming to a crashing end. Millennials now prefer to plant beetroots under the moonlight than maximise profits for FTSE 500. They want companies to deliver on sustainability promises and offer products and services that allow consumers to make more ethical choices. 

Planetwide impact and positive change

A major part of Plan A’s mission is to facilitate the collaborative action that will steer the way we live our lives, and our planet, in a healthy direction. Plan A promotes exchange among doers, strengthens the force of their campaigns and fortifies charities that can focus on their operational task of restoring and promoting the vital ecosystems that make Earth a beautiful place for its inhabitants. 

Read also: A Mighty Network for the Planet

Plan A’s platform is a space for people, organisations and their projects to come together. These people share a vision of what the planet should be like (i.e. cooler) and ground their actions in common values: positivity, efficiency and context-driven cooperation among them. Whilst the range of projects is wide – from restoring forestry in Kenya to solving plastic pollution in the UK – the mission is the same. This diversity in action is a proving ground for those who care about the impact of humans, and every success, big or small, proves that we have the capacity to clean up our act and build a sustainable future. 

Unexpected cooperation

“You look left, I look right, we’re covered partner” (Credit: Tom Stables)

Knowledge and climate action

Knowledge building is one of the mantras of the Plan A way of life. The ideas that emerge locally from our world of projects will spread throughout the global community of changemakers and so we encourage everybody (individual, professional IKEA bed builder, or CEO), to join the dialogue and speak up for the planet. 

You can learn more about our partners with this piece or following our Instagram PlanAearth, where you’ll see the current projects, the beautiful landscapes they protect, and the animals they save. Ideas get shared, money gets saved, trees get planted across the planet, forests win. As simple as a virtuous circle. 

Monkey searching for fleas

Help thy neighbour (All Rights Reserved: Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards)