The People’s Climate March is coming to Washington, DC on April 29th. Businesses and their employees can play a big role.
By Andrew Winston, Author and Founder of Winston Eco-Strategies
In September 2014, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of New York City to raise awareness about climate change. Among them were leaders from major companies and business associations who saw the opportunity to show the pivotal role businesses can play in tackling climate change. The People’s Climate Movement is gathering citizens again in a few weeks, but this time in Washington, DC. Their collective voices will demonstrate to our elected officials the scale of demand for action.
Business leaders should show up in force, whether physically or virtually. For companies, being involved in the march does not mean bringing corporate banners and logos, but providing support, from public statements to helping employees go to the march (let them bring their whole selves to work and act as “citizens” of their companies and the country).
I asked colleagues who work with sustainable business organizations for ideas on how businesses can support the march. Below is a menu of options for companies and for CEOs/executives specifically.
And below this list, I’ve included some thoughts on the logic for climate action. These messages can help companies make the business and economic case in their communications.
A MENU OF OPTIONS FOR BUSINESSES AND CEOs
- Show your company’s support on social media: Send tweets or write posts on Facebook leading up to the event and on April 29.
- Sign onto public statements of support such as www.lowcarbonusa.org, which includes 1,000 companies already.
- Encourage employees to post to social media too: Take group pictures of employees with pro-climate-action signs or shirts and post to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
- Create an online or actual petition of employees in support of climate action and send to the President and your Members of Congress in districts with your offices and facilities.
- In the spirit of internet protests in early 2012, where 100,000+ websites went black to protest pending legislation that threatened free speech on the internet, change the corporate website for a day (possibly to a color like green or orange) or post a “badge” to show solidarity for smart climate action.
- Add mentions of the march to all corporate Earth Day events and communications.
- Connect with other companies in your area to coordinate activity, particularly clean economy companies (e.g., do you have a solar provider?).
- Organize employee trips to march: Send buses to DC, or find one of many sister marches in your area.
- Make a bold new commitment or goal around carbon emissions or highlight your company’s achievements to date.
- Ask your government relations/affairs to take part in a business lobbying day after the march (May 1-2)
“We believe climate change is real and the science is well accepted. Our customers, partners and countries are demanding technology that generates power while reducing emissions, improving energy efficiency and reducing cost.” — Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, internal blog post to employees, March 29, 2017.
CEO and C-suite individual actions
The most powerful demonstration of support for climate action would be top executives, and especially the CEO, speaking out. They should make it clear that they believe that tackling climate change is good for the company, the economy, and the country. Some suggested actions for the CEO and/or C-suite:
- Send email to all employees to encourage support for/attendance at marches.
- Write an internal blog. GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt recently posted a blog about GE’s commitment to climate action and what it means to the business.
- Co-author a statement with a mayor or governor in a region with major business operations.
- Phone a friend. CEOs and other executives could spread the word with trusted peers and encourage them to look at this list.
- Take part in events around the march. For women executives in particular, the B Team is holding a “Women in Climate” event the night of April 28th (More info to come)
- Go to the march and bring your family. Nothing would send a clearer message to employees and that world.
KEY FACTS BUSINESS CAN HELP AMERICANS UNDERSTAND
Below are some compelling statistics that underscore the business and economic case for climate action. You can use the powerful voice of business to make this case to our elected officials.
- Fighting climate change is not just critical for helping our citizens and communities stay healthy, but it also makes America’s economy strong and competitive. America should take a leadership role in the greatest innovation and wealth-generating opportunity in decades. The clean energy economy is already a $200 billion market in the U.S.and $1.2 trillion globally.
- China is currently leading in the solar and wind industries globally and will invest $360 billion into renewable energy by 2020. Nearly every country in the world signed the Paris climate accords, committing to significant reductions in emissions and a total of more than $13 trillion in clean energy investments over the next 15 years.
- Climate action drives the creation of good, lasting jobs at home. The clean economy in the U.S. supports over 3 million jobs already — the same number of jobs as in retail stores and twice those in building construction. More than 600,000 people work in renewable energy, 200,000 in clean transportation, and more than 2 million in building efficiency. Picture entire supply chains with construction workers and engineers, installation and maintenance crews, manufacturing jobs, sales people, and IT managers, all supporting the clean economy.
- Transitioning towards a climate-friendly energy system will bring change. Renewable energy jobs already outnumber fossil fuel jobs by 5 to 1. With the right investments in people, we can ensure that hardworking Americans working in fossil fuels today will take part in the new economy.
- Acting on climate change protects the country and improves national security. As the Pentagon has repeatedly said, climate change is a global “threat multiplier.”
- Slowing down action on climate change will cost the world trillions of dollars. One analysis from Citi calculates that it will be cheaper to shift to the clean economy and will avoid tens of trillions of economic damage.
- The major solutions to climate change — particularly renewable energy — have gotten radically cheaper. The costs of solar and wind have dropped 60–80% in the last 7 years.
- Smart businesses are acting now to avert the risks associated with climate change. About 100 multinationals have committed to pursue 100% renewable energy. And the four most valuable publicly traded companies in the world — Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, and Amazon — have come out forcefully in favor of climate action.
There are many ways to make the case for climate action, so this is in no way an exhaustive list. But we urge you to do something. April 29 provides an opportunity to demonstrate how your company is helping forge solutions that are good for America, good for jobs, and good for communities. It’s also a great opportunity to engage your employees — and make your kids and grandkids proud.
This article was first published on Medium.