Climate Coaching Alliance: A global coaching community deepens awareness to support planetary health
The Climate Coaching Alliance (CCA) helps coaches deepen their ecological awareness by holding space for curiosity and collaboration. Dr. Josie McLean and Eve Turner share how coaches are reimagining the relationship between people and the planet.
Climate Coaching Alliance engages coaches to co-create a more sustainable future
Founded in 2019, the Climate Coaching Alliance (CCA) invites coaches, mentors, and coaching psychologists worldwide to develop greater ecological awareness. As part of welcoming in diverse members from around the world, membership, events, and communities are free. This open invitation to curiously examine humanity’s relationship with the planet has inspired innovation in coaching practice, international events, professional development and training opportunities, and eco-coaching businesses.
As a community of coaches, the CCA uses coaching as an approach to “hold space” for deeper learning and collaboration. Online events allow coaches to listen, ask questions, and hear from their peers about climate coaching. Member-generated communities, or “pods,” cover a dozen languages and a variety of topics, including sustainability, education, and policy. Through mutual learning, CCA co-founder Dr. Josie McLean shares that coaches are “becoming bolder together.” Networking and co-learning opportunities help connect coaches to valuable resources and peer support. As a result, coaches in France, Australia, and the United Kingdom have formed eco-coaching businesses to develop niche coaching in sustainability. CCA members are also leading discussions to integrate Indigenous and non-Western perspectives into coaching models and reimagining coaches as instigators for social change.
“We create safe places where people can trust us — where they know they won’t be judged and can be vulnerable. It allows clients, then, to think about things more deeply because they know it’s a safe, trusted space. That’s what we’re good at as coaches. So that’s what the CCA has done for coaches, and that’s what coaches can do for their clients.”
The call to climate action inspires collaboration in the coaching field
The original CCA invitation to curiously examine humanity’s relationship to the natural world sparked a global movement in coaching. In 2020, coaching bodies from around the world issued a Joint Global Statement on Climate Change, declaring:
“Coaching, mentoring, coaching psychology, and supervision are concerned with developing the potential of human beings, of raising awareness to enable people to take responsibility for their actions and ownership for their contribution. We have a significant role to play in fostering new ways of being in service to a healthy human society and a healthy planet.”
The Joint Global Statement Group hosted six initial webinars where coaches from all eleven professional bodies discussed their role in supporting planetary health. In January 2023, one of the group’s round tables examined the role of coaches in “shifting the status quo” of overconsumption and exploitation. These conversations place humans in relationship to the planet and consider ways to give back to the systems that support human life. From these discussions, coaches are reconsidering what ethical obligation they may have to speak out on climate topics.
Collaboration among the eleven professional bodies which collectively have contact with around 300,000 coaches has inspired new scholarship, continued learning opportunities, and action. March 2020 marked the first Climate Coaching Action Day, launched by Coaching at Work magazine. On the first Thursday of March, coaches share their support of climate action through social media, podcasts, and online events. In Fall of 2022, the Climate Coaching Alliance published Ecological and Climate Conscious Coaching: A Companion Guide to Evolving Coaching Practice, which combined the experiences and wisdom of seventy coaches worldwide. Beyond sharing helpful examples from coaching practice, the book serves as a workbook for coaches to imagine new possibilities for climate-conscious coaching.
Coaches as transformational leaders for a sustainable and equitable future
Pushing the boundaries of coaching practice, Eve Turner emphasizes that as agents of change, coaches have a unique role in supporting human development and well-being on every front. She shares that while the CCA is climate-focused, “this isn’t just about the environment. It’s social. It’s economic. Everything is interrelated, and that’s why in the middle sits the environment.” Examining the ethics of climate action has led some coaches to avoid planet-harming clients and take roles to actively broach the subject of planetary stewardship in their practice. This approach requires coaches to balance an ethical responsibility towards planetary health and social equity with the duty to uphold client autonomy.
The Climate Coaching Alliance offers resources for coaches who want to deepen their understanding of planetary health. Every March, the CCA hosts a free conference exploring climate topics and examining the role of coaches in supporting a sustainable relationship between people and the planet. The 2023 keynote speakers cover the following:
- Leadership needs for a sustainable planet
- Non-Western and Indigenous perspectives on climate action
- The role of coaches in supporting women’s leadership in sustainability
- Adopting long-term perspectives to explore the future
- Engaging individuals through story, values, and community to support a sustainable and equitable planet
The conference will be followed up with an additional fifty curated sessions over the month of March. To learn more about the Climate Coaching Alliance, read our interview with Eve Turner and Dr. Josie McLean:
Interview with Dr. Josie McLean and Eve Turner
Can you describe the origins of the Climate Coaching Alliance?
“In 2009, I chaired a regional ICF Conference here in Adelaide, South Australia that connected the ideas of sustainability and coaching together, but not many people attended. I witnessed this as something important and interesting, but hard to gain traction. So, I started talking about systems and the interrelatedness of systems and went down that path. And it’s a path I continue to use because it eliminates the political arguments.”
Since her 2009 talk, media and politics surrounding climate action and sustainability have shifted. Josie explains that the topic is less political, and individuals are looking for ways to learn more about sustainability. In 2019, Josie McLean, Eve Turner, and Alison Whybrow founded the Climate Coaching Alliance. Eve shares:
“Right from the start, when Ali, Josie, and I discussed forming the CCA, we wanted to make it an inclusive organization. All coaches were welcome to join, and we welcomed people where they were, not thinking they should be in any particular place. People didn’t join because they had loads of information or were active. They joined CCA because they were curious and found a safe place.”
On the Climate Coaching Alliance website, you have different language communities and focus groups. Can you speak more about creating an inclusive global community?
“We set up the CCA to be inclusive, so we never charge a fee. We don’t charge to join, and we don’t charge to go to any events, which was deliberate because even a small fee to some can be a lot to others. We are deliberately inclusive by geography and economic situation. It’s the same with our book, which I know is expensive. We don’t really have a choice about that, but one person could buy it, and a group of 20 people could do the exercises together. They could set up their own book club, and someone could lead them through the materials. That is why we wrote the book the way we did: to serve as a living workshop so that people could do it together and not be disadvantaged.”
How does the structure of the CCA support collaboration?
“The CCA is run like a living system: there is no hierarchy that tells people what they should or shouldn’t do. If people want to set something up, we’ll create the email addresses so they can do it. This non-hierarchical method creates its own momentum.”
“We wanted to experiment with how we set up the CCA, so we deliberately set it up so that we weren’t controlling. We hold a space for it just like we do in coaching. We serve that space as well as we can to liberate the energy within it, and we repeatedly see in the CCA that this is a model for organizations and businesses.”
What kind of activities do you see coming out of the CCA community pods?
“Some pods have more formality to them. The politics pod has many talks, and it has done various activities, such as surveys. There’s a sustainability pod that did the same. But it’s down to them. That’s the thing about having a living system: you don’t feel the need to control it because it controls itself.”
“Most of all, we are seeing the relationships between the people that join the pods and the mutual learning that happens because they are there together. By inquiring into a topic of mutual interest, they develop confidence and competence together. That emerges in their practices in different ways. We’re also seeing lots of small businesses emerging from the CCA. People are coming together and exploring different aspects of how we can engage our clients in this work.”
How do you see coaches engaging their clients to examine their relationship to the planet?
“Taking people through a number of generations and thinking through the legacy they want to leave behind. These are cool things we can do as coaches, and in all the addressing of climate change and all the issues we may work with, the most fundamental issue is creating that space and asking: ‘What’s the person you want to be?’ ‘What do you want to leave behind?’ ‘What do you really care about?’”
“Opening up that deeper sense of humanity is so important. It’s a great thing…the fundamental difference as we consider how to engage with client’s around ecological and climate issues, is that in our original coach training, we were taught to focus on the person. In ecological and climate conscious coaching, we’re looking at the person within context, within context, within context, there are all those nested layers of interdependent systems. So, it is an application of systemic coaching That also recognizes that we, the coach, are also a part of those systems.”
What are your aspirations for the future of coaching and planetary ecology?
“I was trained to look at my client and me and see two people in the room. And what did they want? Now I walk side by side and say: What’s the world asking of us? What’s the work we need to do? That’s coaching as a partnership. What do we need to do for climate change, racial equity, and economic equity? It has to be a partnership. One of the most beautiful books is Anita Sanchez’s, The Four Sacred Gifts, which is mentioned in the book (Ecological and Climate Conscious Coaching). She talks about the four sacred gifts, one of which is the power of unity, the power to come together.”
What role do you see coaches playing in impacting the future of sustainable consumption and production?
“As coaches, and as human beings, that curiosity of wanting to know more, to understand something is hopefully part of our DNA…If we ask people, ‘what are we going to need to be able to thrive in 10, 20, or 30 years’ time?’ Whether that’s the resources we need, the service, or the staff we need for business. Those are the questions we need to ask.”
“Coaches have the possibility of playing a transformational role. One of the huge challenges for people pursuing any of the sustainability goals is making the necessary changes. We know that coaches and coaching as a process is an effective change methodology. Secondly, there is a huge need for transformation. If coaches can educate themselves about the nature of that change, they can play an even more pivotal role in the transformation that needs to happen because they are sitting with the decision-makers. The change will happen in these one-on-one conversations or group conversations with people as they re-examine the assumptions that underpin their existing business models.”