Purpose

  • This guide will help you engage your employer in an effective and productive manner, with a goal of generating action on climate change
  • It will highlight climate change as an environmental & racial justice issue with human impacts in addition its physical impacts
  • We are a group of mostly tech employees that have researched and built a scalable starting point to engage your company to improve its sustainability practices

Introduction

 

An Urgent Call to Action

The scientific consensus on humans causing global warming has passed 99%, and our (only) planet has experienced 421 straight months of warming. Levels of CO2 are at their highest point in over 800,000 years. Increases in surface temperature are already having direct impacts on both short and long term economic activity across all sectors. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has declared climate change an existential danger to humanity. The good news: the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated we must act before 2030 and implement a full suite of solutions, most of which are already available.

The primary causes of climate change are:

  • fossil fuel usage for energy generation
  • deforestation
  • industrial and farming processes 

Physical environment effects of climate change show up in the forms of:

  • extreme weather events (droughts, floods, higher magnitude hurricanes, wildfires, etc)
  • rising sea levels & ocean acidification (the ocean absorbs two-thirds of temperature increase)

The Human Suffering Will Be Tremendous And Disproportionate

The impacts of climate change are felt by people in a variety of manners, including:

According to the United Nations, human impacts disproportionately experienced by those with lower socioeconomic status through a) greater exposure to adverse effects of climate change, b) increased susceptibility to its damage, and c) decreased ability to cope and recover from the damage suffered. In the United States, a study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found African Americans bear a “pollution burden” that is 56 percent higher than other Americans, and Hispanics 63 percent higher, making it a social equity issue. The above has been most apparent during the COVID crisis in the United States, with African American and Latinx populations being disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Businesses Have An Important Role And Need to Step Up

A study analyzing disclosures from more than 1,600 global companies and found that they are collectively underreporting the financial implications of climate risks to investors by at least 100 times. “Human-caused global warming is being funded directly by the finance sector”, according to the head of the Bank of England. The consumer goods sector is particularly responsible, driving 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions, 80% of all water use, and 66% of all tropical deforestation.

In July 2020, financial institutions that together manage almost $1 trillion in assets wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other U.S. financial regulators warning that the “systemic threat” of climate change means “significant disruptive consequences on asset valuations and our nation’s economic stability” as well as “the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of people across the country.” In June 2020, the central banks of 66 nations warned that, without aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions, global Gross Domestic Product will fall 25 percent by the end of the century.

Business leaders are now recognizing the need to measure success in ways beyond profit: the Business Roundtable announced in 2019 a commitment to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders”. A group of CEOs and union leaders signed a joint open letter asking the US government to remain in the Paris climate agreement.

What can YOU do?

Employees can be heroes in engaging their employers to take leadership in combating climate change, and in the process living up to mission statements of making a positive impact on the communities that comprise their customers. We have recently witnessed successful employee-driven changes at Amazon in pushing the company to commit to 100% Renewable energy by 2030 and Google employees in fighting for gender equity

This guide is intended to help employees engage their employers in a prescriptive, solutions-based manner to help businesses address the effects of climate change on all stakeholders (citizens, communities, customers, employees, shareholders, and suppliers). In turn, this will benefit companies by boosting their CSR profile, increasing the ability to hire & retain talent, attracting impact investors (rise of ESG investing), and most importantly, increasing short and long term bottom line from risk mitigation of the effects of global warming / climate change. We have 10 years to make the changes necessary, so that we may leave a better world for our children.

Note: We will use the terms global warming, climate change, and climate disruption interchangeably

Making A Difference Within Your Company

Ready to take action? Here’s how to Get Started:

Join or start an affinity or employee interest group

Gather a cross-functional group of employees from a broad perspective.

  • What power do you have in your role to make decisions that impact the climate?

Understand the landscape

Have direct conversations with your corporate leadership, sustainability group, and/or your HR representative to understand your employer’s sustainability practices. Does your company…

 

  • Measure & report GHG emissions?
  • Use suppliers that have questionable human rights / sustainability practices?
  • Invest in fossil fuels or use financial services providers that fund fossil fuels?
  • Have a history of funding political groups that impede climate solutions?

    Benchmark your organization’s progress

    Compare with other companies taking major steps on climate change, such as Microsoft & Apple.

    Make an ask

    Directly addressing executives and senior leaders is an important step after initial research and work towards solutions. Ask them to commit to clear and actionable next steps with accountability at the highest levels of the organization.

    A Framework to Generate Change

    This framework will allow companies to start by making changes internally, eventually growing to have an impact on all stakeholders the organization touches. While many companies have taken steps to solve the Operations & Product pieces of the puzzle we see a significant opportunity for companies to take leadership on Divestment and Public Policy Advocacy.

    Supply Chain / Operations / Facilities

    Improve operations & supply chain practices to reduce emissions and energy use, and assess the human impacts of your practices, building supply chain resilience in the process.

    Product

    Assess the end-to-end environmental and human impacts of your products in furthering the climate crisis, and take actions accordingly.

    Divestment

    Divest from operations further the use of fossil fuels and other practices that further the climate crisis, and invest instead in those that are working towards solutions.

    Changing Policy & Lobbying Practices

    Companies and industry trade groups often work with the government to shape policy through political contributions, lobbying, and other mechanisms.

    Get in Touch

    Need help advocating for climate action at your company? We’ll guide and support you.

     

    Resources

    Silicon Valley Green Team Network

    This LinkedIn group has people all over the bay area who are working towards climate solutions within their companies. It could be a helpful place to make connections.

    American Sustainable Business Council

    This group provides information about the needs and opportunities associated with the climate from a business perspective. Best for small to medium-sized companies.

    Science-Based Targets Initiative

    This initiative is a powerful way of boosting companies’ competitive advantage in the transition to the low-carbon economy. It is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

    Business for Social Responsibility

    This nonprofit network and consultancy helps larger businesses “create a just and sustainable world.”