Our key takeaway: “Unless we listen, we can only impose solutions.” Engaging with climate justice as business leaders starts with listening to impacted people, and entails raising comfort levels with uncertainty and gradual evolution. It also means connecting the dots between siloed environmental and social impact teams.
B Lab, the COP26 Climate Champions Team, Provoc, and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford launched the Climate Justice Playbook for Business, a practical compendium of learnings, advice and case studies designed to help business leaders “understand the intersection of climate action and social justice and advance a justice-centered approach to climate action.” Some takeaways from the guide:
The climate justice movement responds to deep-seated socioeconomic imbalances. The playbook defines climate justice as “the recognition that climate change is a human-made crisis that has primarily been wrought by those with economic power and privilege, while the effects of climate change have a disproportionately negative impact on the historically marginalised and underserved.” Redressing these imbalances requires companies to put the “needs, voices and leadership” of the most impacted people at the forefront of designing climate solutions. For business leaders, embracing climate justice also yields “distinct, measurable business value” and is necessary to achieve global climate goals.
Companies need to learn and deploy “multidimensional thinking” to achieve climate justice. Companies will not successfully achieve their climate goals through unilateral or siloed solutions. While business leaders do need to change their own practices to achieve climate goals, they also need to rethink the way that they tackle the highly complex, interconnected topic of climate change in order to achieve these goals. The playbook outlines some key insights for companies to help reshape their thinking about climate action. For example, business leaders need to gain comfort with taking action that doesn’t clearly “check boxes” and lacks a clear linear roadmap; “instead, a different mentality is needed, one in which we are comfortable with uncertainty and gradual evolution.” Listening to the perspectives of the most impacted and vulnerable stakeholders can help companies respond more effectively to the needs of these people: “[W]ithout deep listening, we cannot understand the impact of our businesses and of climate change on the communities in which we do business. We need to ask to discover what kind of change communities want, how they want to participate in that change, and on what timeline they want change to happen. Unless we listen, we can only impose solutions.”
Businesses must “lean in” to the obstacles they face to engage in climate justice. Companies should engage in listening to be able to remedy a lack of understanding of the needs of impacted communities. Embedding meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion in an organisation will strengthen business accountability for impacts on people and bring in new voices. Rather than focusing on “problem-solving” within set timeframes and structures, companies should recognise that “true, restorative justice is not always swift”. And businesses should make structural and operational changes to “connect the dots” between siloed environmental and social impact teams.
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”
Audre Lorde, Civil Rights Activist and Author
“You know the old saying, you never know what someone else is going through? We’ll apply that here. So when you’re talking to someone about water conservation, make space for a potential reality that the only water available to them is poisonous. When you’re talking to someone about land, make space for a potential reality that the land was stolen from their ancestors, extracted, and they’re now being told to fix it. Make space for the painfully ironic realities that exist in our imperfect movements.”
Vanice Dunn, Vice President of Communications, PolicyLink