What can businesses do to counteract climate change? How do we ensure a commitment to climate justice, equity, and inclusion guides our action? And how do we persevere through difficult setbacks in this all-important fight? These are some key questions I considered with over 65 business leaders at the 2020 B Corp Climate Leadership Summit.
In February, representatives from U.S. and Canadian B Corp companies convened in Taos, New Mexico for the second annual Climate Leadership Summit. The Summit built on climate activism momentum across the B Corp community, while also elevating climate justice to the center of our collective efforts.
A historic moment for B Corp climate activism
Over the last year, the B Corp community has increasingly focused on climate action. Certified B Corporations like 3Degrees must consider the impact of business decisions on their employees, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. B Corps around the world are working on all of these areas of impact, but the clock is ticking on the environment. As we look ahead at the dire implications of global warming, B Corp leaders have agreed: we must prioritize climate leadership in the way we do business.
The B Corp community recognizes it has a unique role to play in setting a new standard for how businesses operate. Consider that in December, more than 500 B Corps across 33 countries announced a commitment to Net Zero by 2030, which is 20 years ahead of the 2050 targets set in the Paris Agreement. As noted by B Lab colleagues, it was a historic moment for climate activism and for the B Corp movement. And the work is just beginning.
Centering action around climate justice
The 2020 B Corp Climate Leadership Summit focused on how much more work is needed, particularly to ensure that inclusion is at the core of how we address climate change. Simply put, when we take climate action, climate justice concerns must be at the forefront. But what exactly is climate justice?
“Climate justice focuses on people,” said Dr. Ellonda Green, B Lab Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, in her presentation at the Summit. Green explained that climate justice is a human-centered approach that links human rights and development by recognizing the disproportionate impact of climate change on the the world’s most vulnerable people. The Summit highlighted the voices of climate leaders from underrepresented communities. These courageous leaders are pioneering a new model for transformational climate leadership, as noted by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson of Project Drawdown who shared her reflections with us. I am deeply appreciative of the wisdom and insights from these new voices who challenge us to reconsider how we frame the problem and the solution.
Throughout the Summit, we discussed practical ways to assess our actions through the lens of climate justice, whether it’s big picture policy advocacy questions or the daily behavioral norms that create workplace culture. For example, while we feel an understandable sense of urgency to act, it’s critical that we take the time to cultivate inclusive practices and approaches that heal, rather than perpetuate systemic injustices. Otherwise, we’ve missed the opportunity to make actual progress. Stay tuned for more in the coming months from the B Corp community on this topic.
It’s intense to fully immerse yourself in discussions about the existential threat to all life on Earth posed by accelerating climate change and ecological breakdown. While attendees were deeply committed to this work during the Summit, there was also an underlying level of stress and fatigue. This is a lesson for any practice focused on supporting effective climate leadership. For any success we may see around galvanizing action to address climate change, there are other disheartening setbacks. Whether they occur at international, national, organizational, or personal levels, these setbacks can be challenging for even the most optimistic among us. That’s one (of many reasons) why taking time to be inclusive and demonstrate gratitude is so important.
Research has found that individuals underestimate the impact of expressing gratitude. It’s not just polite; it’s also good for your own well-being and the well-being of others. Throughout the Summit, the event organizers created space for people to express gratitude. And, we had an especially poignant opportunity to put that insight into action.
Elementary school students from a neighboring town had been told that “important business leaders” were convening in Taos to talk about climate change. These first through fifth grade students created artwork to ask us to help protect the environment. It was both an uplifting and grounding reminder of the importance of the work we have to do. On one hand, it might have been easy to just look at the pictures and then get re-consumed with our own “busy-ness” in replying to inboxes that had filled in our absence from the office. Instead, attendees took a moment to write notes to each class to thank the students for their amazing artwork and to let them know that we hear them. It was one tangible action we could take.
As we go forward in the weeks and months ahead, may all of us continue to heed this call to both focus on the urgency of the climate crisis and to ensure a deeply inclusive approach. Want to join the B Corp community in this crucial work to bring urgency, inclusion, justice, and humanity to address the climate crisis? Learn more about the B Corp Climate Collective.