Skip to content

Carbon Tunnel Vision + 6 Ways To Broaden Your View

Learn about carbon tunnel vision and 6 key ways to avoid getting hung up on 1 single metric
Carbon Tunnel Vision Cover

In our quest to demystify sustainability, there's a catchy wave of trying to 'make it simple'. And hey, we're all for breaking down complex topics into bite-sized, digestible pieces that everyone can take action on. However, while the intention is golden, it's not without its pitfalls.  

Ever seen this meme (image 1) that perfectly captures the essence of carbon tunnel vision? It’s a spot-on reminder that zeroing in exclusively on carbon barely scratches the surface of the climate crisis. This approach, though well-intentioned for its simplicity, risks sidelining the broad, interconnected web of sustainability issues. It's like having a kaleidoscope but only peering through one color.  

Image 1: Carbon Tunnel Vision MemeI

The Pitfalls of Carbon Tunnel Vision 

Carbon tunnel vision is the risk associated with exclusively concentrating on the carbon reduction aspects of Net Zero strategies, thereby ignoring potential impacts on other vital sustainability challenges. This laser focus, while shiny and appealing, can trip us up on our journey to truly embrace the breadth of sustainability and climate action. 


What are the risks? 

  1. Neglecting Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health: When we zoom in too much on carbon emissions, we might miss the forest for the other critical environmental dilemmas, like the silent cries of vanishing species and the fading health of our ecosystems. These aren't just background scenery; they're the lifeblood of our planet. 
  1. - Overlooking Social Impacts: There's more to the story than just numbers on a carbon scale. In our race to cut emissions, we risk bypassing the social chapters of our sustainability narrative — matters of fairness, equity, community health, and workers' rights. 
  1. - Missing Broader Environmental Issues: Carbon is not the sole player in the environmental band. There are other performers like water usage, land management, and the sneaky toxins we release. If we're too fixated on one instrument, we might not hear the sounds from the rest of the orchestra. 
  1. - Impeding Comprehensive Sustainability: By singing only with the carbon reduction tune, companies risk not performing the full sustainability symphony that our world needs, one that harmonizes a variety of environmental and social melodies. 
  1. - Reducing Complex Problems to Single Metrics: Our environmental and social ecosystems are like a complex symphony, not a solo act that can be fully appreciated through the lens of carbon emissions alone. This simplification can lead us to solutions that, while well-meaning, might not hit the right notes or, worse, add to the noise.  


Embracing Holistic Sustainability Strategies  

Imagine sustainability as a grand symphony orchestra, where carbon reduction plays the role of the first violin. While this part is crucial, it is not the entirety of the music. A comprehensive approach to sustainability requires the integration of various elements beyond carbon reduction. Biodiversity and ecosystem health are like the other instruments Together, these components create a full, performance that impacts the audience. 

To truly achieve sustainability, we must balance carbon reduction with the vital contributions of biodiversity, ecosystem health, and social well-being. 

I hear you thinking “That sounds quite overwhelming”.   

So, how does one go about adopting and promoting holistic sustainability practices? 



6 Ways To Broaden Your View

  1. 1. Prioritize within your strategy and level up your reporting 

Double materiality is a key component of not only sustainability reporting but strategy as well. Simply put, it helps you identify sustainability topics that are relevant to your organization and prioritize your actions to influence those topics.  

It involves assessing not only the financial impacts of their operations on the environment but also how environmental and social issues can impact financial performance and business resilience. Double materiality encourages companies to consider both the outward impacts of their actions on the world and the inward impacts on their operations, finances, and strategy. This approach aims to provide a more comprehensive understanding of a company's sustainability performance and risks, aligning with broader objectives of transparency, accountability, and effective sustainability integration into business models. 


Double Materiality explained

Imagine you own a cozy coffee shop that's well-loved in your community. To embrace sustainability, you decide to look into how your business can operate more responsibly. This is where the concept of double materiality comes into play, guiding you to consider two main types of impacts: how sustainability issues affect your coffee shop and how your coffee shop impacts sustainability. 

Financial Impact on Your Business (Outside-In): You notice that extreme weather conditions, likely driven by climate change, are affecting the price and availability of coffee beans. This is an outside-in perspective, where environmental changes are impacting your business financially. If the trend continues, you might face higher costs or difficulty sourcing quality beans, affecting your shop's profitability and sustainability. 

Your Business's Impact on Sustainability (Inside-Out): On the flip side, you realize that your coffee shop uses a lot of single-use cups, contributing to waste and pollution. This is an inside-out perspective, where your business's operations have a direct impact on environmental sustainability. By addressing this and perhaps switching to biodegradable cups or incentivizing customers to bring their own, you can reduce your environmental footprint. 

Double materiality, in this case, helps you see the full picture: understanding how broader sustainability issues can affect your coffee shop's future (financial materiality) and recognizing how your business practices impact the planet and society (impact materiality). By considering both, you can make more informed decisions that ensure your coffee shop thrives financially while contributing positively to the world around you. 



  1. 2. Navigate the regulatory landscape 

To combat carbon tunnel vision, several directives and regulations are being put in place, aiming to ensure that companies consider broader environmental and social impacts alongside carbon reduction. Some of the key directives mentioned include: 

  1. - Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD): This directive requires companies to report not only on carbon but on wider environmental and social impact activities. It aims to provide more transparency and standardization in reporting, helping stakeholders understand the full scope of a company's sustainability efforts.
  2. - Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR): SFDR imposes mandatory Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosure obligations on financial market participants. It requires them to disclose how they consider sustainability impacts in their investment decisions, promoting transparency and standardization in the evaluation of sustainability.
  3. - Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD): This EU directive mandates companies to identify, mitigate, and report on the impact their operations and supply chains have on human rights and the environment. It focuses on ensuring that companies are accountable for their entire value chain, addressing both environmental and social issues.

These directives form part of a broader regulatory effort to ensure companies not only focus on reducing carbon emissions but also consider their wider environmental and social impacts. This regulatory landscape encourages companies to adopt a holistic approach to sustainability, ensuring they account for a range of sustainability issues beyond just carbon, thereby addressing the challenge of carbon tunnel vision. 

It’s important to integrate sustainability across all levels of an organization. By doing so, companies can ensure a collective effort in tackling the climate crisis, rather than placing the burden solely on a sustainability department or manager. This approach is crucial for effective sustainability practices that address the wide range of environmental and social challenges we face today. 




  1. 3. Conduct a Climate Risk Assessment 

A climate risk assessment is a more formal evaluation aimed at understanding the potential impacts of climate change on an organization, community, or specific system. This process involves identifying and analyzing the risks associated with climate-related hazards, such as extreme weather events, sea level rise, and temperature changes.  

The key aspects of a client risk assessment are: 

  • 1. Formal Evaluation: It's a structured process to assess how climate change could impact various facets of an organization or community. 
  • 2. Identifying Climate-Related Hazards: The assessment focuses on understanding specific environmental changes and events that could pose risks. 
  • 3. Analyzing Risks: Beyond identification, there's a deep dive into the severity and likelihood of these hazards affecting the entity in question. 

The purpose of conducting a climate risk assessment is to inform decision-making processes within organizations. By understanding potential risks and vulnerabilities, businesses can enhance their resilience and sustainability in the face of climate change. This process is crucial for companies looking to navigate the uncertainties brought about by environmental shifts, ensuring they are prepared for and can adapt to future challenges. 




The steps for completing a climate risk assessment are:

  1. 1. Identifying Hazards:
    The process begins by identifying the climate-related hazards specific to the organization’s geography, as well as its physical and socioeconomic characteristics. This step is crucial for understanding the types of climate impacts the organization might face, such as extreme weather events, sea level rise, or temperature changes.
  1. 2. Assessing Vulnerability:
    After identifying the hazards, the next step is to assess the organization’s vulnerability. This involves evaluating the sensitivities of the organization’s systems, activities, or assets to the identified hazards. It’s important to consider both direct impacts, such as damage to infrastructure, and indirect impacts, such as changes in market demand or regulatory requirements.
  1. 3. Identifying Adaptation Options:
    Once the vulnerabilities are understood, organizations can identify adaptation options to reduce these vulnerabilities and enhance resilience. This could include infrastructure upgrades, deploying technology, preparing for natural disasters, or engaging with the community. It’s about looking for opportunities to improve resilience and reduce vulnerability.
  1. 4. Prioritizing Risks:
    Given that resources are limited, it's essential to prioritize risks based on their severity, likelihood, and potential consequences. This step helps organizations allocate resources effectively and implement risk management strategies that address the most significant risks first.


This approach should be tailored to the specific industry and business size, ensuring that the climate risk assessment is relevant and effective for the organization. This process is not only about identifying risks but also about enhancing profitability, and resilience, and promoting sustainable development in the face of climate change.




  2. 4. Integrate Sustainability Across Organizational Levels 

For sustainability measures and strategies to be effective, it is crucial not just to rest them on the shoulders of a single person or a small sustainability team. Instead, there should be a collective effort and joint responsibility throughout the entire organization. 


Setting up committees and ensuring company-wide integration of sustainability practices can foster a culture of sustainability within organizations. This approach ensures that everyone, from top management to employees at all levels, takes accountability for contributing to sustainability goals. Such integration helps in implementing sustainable measures more effectively and aligns the entire organization toward a common objective of sustainable development. 


Sustainability is not a niche area but a core aspect of modern business strategy that requires broad engagement and commitment across all parts of an organization. 



  1. 5. Value Natural and Financial Resources 

Sustainable development worldwide faces the common challenge of valuing both financial and natural capital in a way that reflects their true contribution to the economy and society. This involves recognizing not just the financial value of resources but also the intrinsic value of natural ecosystems and the services they provide. 


While financial capital is often well-understood and quantified in business operations, natural capital—such as clean air, water, and biodiversity—tends to be undervalued or overlooked in traditional economic models and decision-making processes. This oversight can lead to unsustainable practices that deplete natural resources and degrade ecosystems, ultimately harming both the environment and the economy. 

 By integrating the valuation of natural capital into business strategies and accounting practices, companies can make more informed decisions that support long-term sustainability goals, benefiting both the planet and their bottom line. 


  2. 6. Collaborate and Communicate 

Tackling complex environmental and social issues requires ongoing dialogue and cooperation among various stakeholders, including businesses, governments, NGOs, and the wider community. By working collaboratively, these groups can share knowledge, resources, and best practices, leading to more innovative and impactful sustainability solutions. 

Effective communication about a company's sustainability efforts, challenges, and achievements can foster a positive relationship with consumers, investors, and the public. This transparency not only enhances a company's reputation but also encourages a culture of accountability and continuous improvement in sustainability practices. 

No single entity can solve sustainability challenges in isolation. It is through collective effort and open dialogue that meaningful progress can be made toward a more sustainable and equitable future. 




These strategies aim to break down silos within organizations and ensure that sustainability is not the sole responsibility of a single individual or team but is embraced as a collective goal. By fostering a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility, companies can more effectively implement sustainability measures and work towards long-term sustainability goals. 

Ditching carbon tunnel vision for a panoramic view of sustainability doesn’t just amplify our impact; it turns us into effective navigators in an ever-evolving world. 



How Dazzle Can Help

Feel inspired to look beyond carbon? Contact us to work with Nalise or one of our other top-tier sustainability freelancers.



FAQ Section

Q: Why is focusing only on carbon reduction not enough?  

A: Focusing solely on carbon reduction misses the vast landscape of sustainability. We need the full ensemble—environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic viability — to truly make an impact. 


Q: What is double materiality?  

A: Double materiality is like having a dual-lens camera that captures both how environmental and social issues impact your business and how your business impacts the planet. It’s about seeing the full picture and acting on it. 


Q: How can technology enhance sustainability efforts?  

A: Technology is a powerful tool, and when used correctly, it can aid in streamlining data collection and empowering us to make informed, impactful decisions. It’s about leveraging digital prowess to turn eco-challenges into opportunities. 


Q: What role do regulations like CSRD and SFDR play?  

A: These regulations guide businesses to perform but also report on a broad range of sustainability efforts, ensuring transparency and accountability in our journey. 



Get Support From Top-Tier Sustainability Freelancers

Schedule an introduction call to learn more.