Not everyone wants to see a positive change in the climate issue. There are very powerful forces spending a lot of money on maintaining the status quo. I wasn’t expecting that when I founded We Don’t Have Time. In the finance industry, I was used to people applauding me when I achieved good things or managed to grow my business. This is not always the case when you are working to help create a fossil-free world.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ingmar Rentzhog.
Ingmar Rentzhog is the founder and CEO of the social networking and review platform We Don’t Have Time.
Dubbed “eco-warrior” by The Sun and “Mark ZuckerVert” by FranceTV2, Ingmar is a serial entrepreneur with a background in the finance industry. He’s a member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and European Climate Policy Task Force and has received multiple awards for his work.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I grew up with six brothers and sisters in a village outside Östersund in Northern Sweden. My parents had this idea to move to the countryside, live close to nature and be self-sufficient. Growing up, I had no interest in that. I was more into computers. But my awareness of our climate and environment started growing when I became a dad myself, and today I have a much better understanding and respect for the choices of my parents.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
We Don’t Have Time is the world’s largest social network for climate action. It is also a climate review platform where companies and organizations are graded in regard to their climate ambitions. We Don’t Have Time uses the power of social media to spread solutions on a global scale and to influence businesses, organizations and political leaders to act on the climate crisis. We also host digital, global events which are broadcast live to a million-wide audience in over 100 countries. Our main goal is to speed up the transition by influencing climate action in society.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I was an entrepreneur in the finance industry, running my own successful company, when I had my first kid. Becoming a father got me thinking more about the world of tomorrow, the world my children was going to inherent, and so I started reading about the climate crisis. At first I thought: It cannot be this bad. If it was, everybody would talk about it, and our leaders would focus all their energy on trying to solve this crisis. But as I dug deeper into it, I realized that it actually was far worse than I thought it was, and that it still was not taken seriously. It perplexed me. It still does.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
My moment of clarity was when Donald Trump was elected as US president. That was when I realized that our leaders were not going to fix this for us. So I sold my company and founded We Don’t have Time with my colleague David Olsson.
Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I have been an entrepreneur for all my life and have started many companies. Therefore, founding a new organization wasn’t a big step for me. The big thing was leaving the finance industry to enter unknown territory. I realized there was so much I needed to learn about the climate crisis. I soon came in contact with Al Gore, the former US vice-president and founder of the Climate Reality Project. I became a Climate Reality leader through his training, and this gave me a good foundation to build upon.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
In the summer of 2018 I walked past the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm and saw a 15-year-old girl sitting there on her own with a hand-written sign saying she was on a climate strike. I had the privilege of being one of the first persons who took a picture of her and wrote a post about in on social media. To see this one-person protest grow into a global mass movement affecting the minds of millions, if not billions, all over the world made it clear to me that one single person can actually make a difference if that person has a true commitment and endurance, and if she practices what she preaches.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
I wish I had a great story to tell you, but nothing comes to mind at the moment.
I make mistakes all the time, but those mistakes actually guide me forward. It’s a process of trial and error. In order to succeed you need to try out new ways of doing things. Some of these will work, others won’t.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
We are fortunate enough to have investors who does not only believe in us, but who actually are willing to dedicate time to help out. Some our investors have become our most important mentors and advisors. This has become more and more important as we continue to grow bigger and face new challenges.
Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First of all, our leaders need to start treating the climate crisis as a crisis. This means making the tough decisions needed to start creating a sustainable future for all.
Secondly, societies need to stop subsidizing fossil energy. It’s beyond absurd that we continue to keep these companies alive with tax-payers money in the year of 2021.
Finally, societies, companies and organizations need to start changing now, instead of just setting up long-term goals. Committing to climate-neutrality 2050 won’t do anything to help unless we start reducing emissions today.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
There is no business on a dead planet. Period. Which translates to: There is no future in fossil fuels. Clean energy is now cheaper than dirty energy in most places, and all major car makers are focusing on developing electric cars.
A very typical example is the recent turmoil at Exxon Mobil, where shareholders unseated three board members to force the oil giant to deal more aggressively with climate change. They did not do this for climate reasons, but for business reasons. They simply wanted to future-proof their own assets.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Three things come to mind.
One: Not everyone wants to see a positive change in the climate issue. There are very powerful forces spending a lot of money on maintaining the status quo. I wasn’t expecting that when I founded We Don’t Have Time. In the finance industry, I was used to people applauding me when I achieved good things or managed to grow my business. This is not always the case when you are working to help create a fossil-free world.
Two: You get people onboard by talking about solutions, but without toning down the serosity of the crisis. It is possible to be an optimist and a realist at the same time.
Three: Once you start acting on the climate crisis there is no way back to a “normal” life. It is not possible to gain real insight on the grim future we are facing unless we change at record-speed, and then ignore it. This can be both and a curse and a blessing.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
This is a no-brainer, really. If you do not choose to make a positive impact on our environment, you are deliberately creating a world that will be horrible for your children and grandchildren to live in. Do you really want that for your loved ones? On a business level, if you don’t change today, you will most probably be out of business tomorrow.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I quite often find myself saying “The most valuable resource you have is how you spend your time.”
It’s a variation of what Al Gore once said during our training. He said: “Time is the only human resource that is not renewable.”
I truly believe that. It is what I do with my time that matters.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Charles Koch, the American oligarch, who in partnership with his late brother David, has spent so much of his time and money to make politicians and society at large NOT act on the climate crisis. I would sincerely like to ask him how he can live with himself. He has the knowledge and the resources to do the opposite. I would be very interesting to find out if it would be possible to maybe plant some new ideas in his mind.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best thing is to sign up to wedonthavetime.org.That’s where all the action happens. It’s an ad-free network, running on renewable energy, with a friendly tone and very knowledgeable audience. You can also follow me personally on LinkedIn.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thanks a lot. We’re gonna need it.