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Meaningful climate action must address anti-racism and equity

2020 has been a year of disruption. The ongoing, systemic oppression of Black Americans, including police violence, highlights how much work needs to be done to bring true equity to our society. This has been an awakening for me. We all must do more, and we all have to do better. And, as 3Degrees’ CEO, I have an obligation to do everything I can. Here are some of my reflections:

As a U.S.-headquartered company in the clean energy industry – which is historically dominated by white men 3Degrees is part of a messy, complicated, and unjust history of systemic racism. White supremacy has been woven into the fabric of the United States and, whether we’ve even realized its existence or not, white people like me have benefited from it. We all have an urgent responsibility to recognize the characteristics of white supremacy culture and help dismantle it. That will require a constant, unyielding devotion to racial justice, inside and outside of our business. We have a part to play in changing the future, and as CEO I am committed to making changes — both in our organization and in our industry.

Diversity is one of 3Degrees’ company values. This June, the 3Degrees team has been discussing what it means to be an anti-racist organization, particularly in the context of our mission to make it possible for businesses and their customers to take urgent action on climate change. Last Friday, we paused business for a day to provide employees with a day of reflection and action in honor of Juneteenth. The fight against climate change is intertwined with dismantling the racist systems in America and indeed throughout the world. As we shared in a public statement earlier this month:

We recognize that climate change has a disproportionately negative impact on Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color. Urgent action on climate must also acknowledge, explore, and advance equity and inclusion in marginalized communities. Our efforts to date have fallen short. The lack of racial diversity at 3Degrees and throughout our industry, especially in leadership positions, contributes to a void in recognizing problems and developing solutions. This is one reality (among others) that we are committed to changing.

I am on my own journey to be an anti-racist leader, which includes learning more about the history of racial oppression and unpacking my own biases. When an employee-led group focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion formed in 2016, I enthusiastically supported the concept, but I didn’t really know where it was headed or what my real investment would need to be. Suddenly I found myself in discussions on new topics, terminology, and a requirement to define what diversity means for our company. These discussions frequently pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone and tested my decision-making, risk aversion, and commitment to doing the tough work. 

As our work continues, I’m more aware of why I get uncomfortable and I’m pushing myself to share openly. I’m learning to be a better listener and to accept feedback. I’m ready to invest more of my own time and company resources to make change happen. I know the team at 3Degrees is with me in this work, and I look forward to what we will do together — within our organization, our industry, and with our partners and clients — to dismantle white supremacy and build an equitable future for people and the planet. I invite you to join me.