Climate solutions at work: a guide for employees!

by | January 7, 2022

Companies arguably exercise more power than both governments and citizens in today’s society.

So what they choose to do (or not do) really matters. Especially when it comes to climate.

They’re starting to move in the right direction. But they still have a long way to go (e.g. 79% of the Forbes 2000 don’t have net zero-targets, 83% don’t have a single board member with sustainability expertise, and the biggest US corporations gave nearly 2x more money to politicians obstructing climate action than to those working for it in the 2020 election.)

The good news is that companies are made up of employees – also known as people. And most people are alarmed or concerned about the planetary emergency.

The better news is that all of these people now have a new guide, called “Climate Solutions at Work”, made specifically for them so they can help make their company better on climate.

“This employee-focused guide has two main objectives:

  1. Democratize climate action so that all employees can contribute. You don’t need to have “sustainability” or “climate” in your job title to take powerful climate action. Every job can be a climate job. This guide helps all employees across all sectors find their inroad.
  2. Elevate business climate leadership by looking beyond “net zero.” A new drawdown-aligned business framework can help companies leverage their social, political, financial, and employee power in pursuit of a stable climate and just future for all.”

I recently read all 40-pages (it’s fantastic). And had the pleasure of speaking with Jamie Beck Alexander who led the team that brought it to life.

Jamie is the Director of Drawdown Labs and the perfect person to talk to about what a company that’s truly leading on climate actually looks like and what employees can do to help them get there faster. We also got to dive into climate migration, advice for parents raising kids today, thoughts on net-zero, and much more!

As always, I’ve pulled some key takeaways and quotes below. But it’s really just scratching the surface.

I highly recommend you watch or listen to our conversation, check out the full “Climate Solutions at Work” guide, and share this with any family, friends, or co-workers who may be interested!

Key Takeaways and Quotes

“Companies contribute to the climate crisis in more ways than just what they’re emitting from their smokestacks.”

“Yes, of course companies need to reduce their emissions as quickly as possible…But there’s also all these other things they could be doing like:

  • Are they supporting bold climate policy or are they staying silent? (which is essentially complicit in the status quo if they stay silent)
  • Are they transparently disclosing their emissions to the public? (so that people and investors can be more sophisticated judges of how companies are doing)
  • Are their investments aligned with their stated sustainability goals or are they supporting fossil fuel companies?
  • Are their products enabling more efficient drilling?

This isn’t just about direct emissions – there are so many other ways that companies are positively and negatively influencing the climate.”

The Drawdown-Aligned Business Framework

“This framework highlights key leverage points and climate actions that all businesses must tap to help the world achieve drawdown quickly, safely, and equitably. To be drawdown-aligned, companies must apply their social, political, financial, and employee power to scaling climate solutions we have in-hand today.”

We need more people power to advance climate solutions in the workplace!

“To move companies fast enough requires employees – it requires workers across the business to push them faster, hold them accountable, and find their own ways to contribute…we’re hoping to really empower and educate workers across job functions so that they can do that work.”

“If our current economic model is going to be able to change as quickly as it needs to, it’s going to be because of workers who are demanding it and holding [their companies] accountable and helping them get there.”

Jamie’s advice for employees on getting started

  1. Find your people at work and create time/space for people to talk about climate action at your company. This helps to get the ball rolling. More people = more power. (To help get a regular dialogue going, check out this resource from The All We Can Save Project and Drawdown Labs.)
  2. Look at the framework laid out in the Climate Solutions at Work guide. Ask: What’s our company doing in each of these areas? What are we not?
  3. Make a list of asks/actions that would address all the different ways your company is influencing the climate. Use positive framing – present it as an opportunity by showing how your company will benefit.
  4. Power mapping – who are the decision-makers for these things? How do we influence that decision-maker to take the actions needed? Who do they listen to? What do they care about?

Other, riskier tactics:

– Speak up at all-hands meetings (e.g. get a lot of people to ask questions about what the company is doing on climate).

– Read your list of asks at the next shareholder meeting (Amazon Employees for Climate Justice did this).

Jamie on net-zero

“In my opinion, it’s a very problematic concept for something that’s very very important that we get right. So I worry that it detracts attention away from the actual reductions that are necessary and it enables this continuing on of business as usual.”

The return on investment for corporate climate action is massive

Investing in climate solutions pays – big time. Drawdown Labs estimates the return on investment is, over a ten year period, 5x higher compared to business as usual.

Advice for parents raising kids

  • Instill an awareness that things are changing so it’s not a shock later.
  • Express gratitude for what we have today.

Thoughts on mass climate migration

“I think it’s going to be just [a] mass migration of people in the coming decade.”

“…there is no moving away from climate change. Nowhere is safe. Everywhere is going to be impacted at different times and in different ways. We need to focus on stopping the cause of climate change. That’s the only way we’re gonna be able to get out of this while we take care of – while we protect our communities and work on adaptation…I think it’s going to be a massive movement of people around the world trying to find safety…so I think the more we talk about it – the more we talk about what’s happening the better we can do this in a way that’s thoughtful and proactive and addresses inequity.”

“This is an emergency moment”

“If we have the means, we should do all we can. And I think we just need to act like this is a global emergency – because it is. And the more we don’t act like it, the more we just kind of fall into complacency. I just really want us to reflect that urgency in every way that we can.”

Podcast Episode Timeline:

0:00 Intro

1:15 Jamie’s climate story

6:25 Project Drawdown & Drawdown Labs

9:35 Theory of change

12:54 Where are companies today and where do they need to get to?

21:05 Stories of companies taking effective climate action beyond direct emissions.

26:40 How many companies actually are looking beyond emissions right now?

30:25 Advice for employees to get their employers to lead. What steps should they take?

34:35 Advice for people who are nervous to speak up at work.

37:20 How do you get buy-in from leadership as an entry-level employee?

41:30 How can Chief Sustainability Officers tap into help from motivated employees around the org?

45:00 What should people understand about net-zero?

50:25 Climate is pro-life. Trying to connect with people on core values.

54:38 Advice for parents raising kids and talking to kids when it comes to climate.

59:00 Jamie’s family deciding to leave California because of wildfires. And mass migration in the future.

1:02:00 In a perfect world, what would we be doing to prepare for the coming mass migration?

1:04:45 Climate solution accelerators – what are they and why do they matter?

1:09:40 Favorite books.

1:12:00 Jamie’s final message to folks!

(If you liked this, you may also appreciate our newsletters/podcast episodes that do a deep dive on two parts of the Drawdown-aligned business framework: setting science-based targets and advocating the government at all levels to act on climate.)

This post was originally featured in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter below!

What others are saying:

“Strikes the perfect balance between smart, understandable, funny, and compelling.” – Jackie

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