As I reflect on 2020 and our goals for the new year, I’m humbled by the enormity of the challenges we face. During his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden’s remarks noted cascading crises, including “A raging virus. Growing inequity. The sting of systemic racism. A climate in crisis.” Throughout the past year, 3Degrees has been on our own journey to bring these issues to light.
Leadership through a global pandemic
When I’d imagined potential challenges I might encounter as CEO of 3Degrees, supporting employees through a global pandemic wasn’t one of them. Yet, here we are… working to keep employees safe and supported, including the pandemic transition to a 100% remote workforce. 3Degrees’ value of respect for our employees drove our decision to bolster the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) of partial paid time off for employees who qualified. We not only allowed employees who had exhausted Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off to use FFCRA, we also ensured that anyone who took the time off received full pay. The realities of the global pandemic, ongoing racial injustices, and remote work have affected everyone in different ways. Like many leaders, I’ve been looking for ideas for how to best support our employees as they navigate these overlapping crises. Case in point: we made the decision to close business from December 24 – January 1 to provide an opportunity for employees to recharge and rejuvenate. It was one concrete action we could take to support our hardworking team.
Our role in addressing systemic racism
I am reminded of the devastating impacts of systemic racism in the wake of the killings of Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd.
We — as organizations and as individuals — must recognize, address, and dismantle systemic racism.
Over the past year, we have been creating our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) action plan, establishing an accountability team, and overhauling our recruitment process. During a recent meeting of our internal DEI Accountability Team, we engaged in a frank discussion about where we see progress and where we’re still falling short. As we reflect on how to prioritize action, I draw upon insights from Erasing Institutional Bias: How to Create Systemic Change for Organizational Inclusion by Dr. Tiffany Jana and Ashley Diaz Mejias, a book recommended by our employee-led DEI Business Resource Group. I remain committed to transparency and will continue to provide updates on 3Degrees’ progress and lessons learned as we dig into this work.
A new dawn for climate action
The catastrophic reality of climate change is becoming poignantly and terrifyingly clear. Last fall, many of our employees experienced evacuation orders related to wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington. The historic size and spread of these wildfires was a frightening reminder about the impacts of climate change, and one that hit very close to home. Unfortunately, the U.S., the second largest emitter of GHG emissions on the world, continues to lag in our climate action efforts. While overall U.S. emissions fell below 1990 levels for the first time in three decades, these reductions reflect the pandemic’s economic and human toll, not significant structural changes in the carbon intensity of the U.S. economy, as noted by Rhodium’s recent report. However, last week, I got a boost of optimism when President Biden took action to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord hours after taking office. With this renewed sense of urgency around climate action, we are more committed than ever to partnering with organizations that are establishing bold plans to achieve net zero emissions.
As we close the first month of 2021, I am hopeful that all three of these critical issues are now a national (as well as global) priority.
If I’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that we need the collective power of everyone — government, businesses, and individuals — to address these cascading crises.
Empathy, self-examination, and commitment to do better has come through during an incredibly trying year. Our resolutions for the new year include harnessing those qualities to lead us through to a brighter future. What steps are you taking to tackle the challenges ahead?