Women Leading Green: Climate Change Leadership Affects Workplaces
This is about more than plastic water bottles and individual coffee pods in the office kitchen. And more than putting plants around the office and calling your organization “green.”
Sustainability, environmental protections and systemic changes to protect the planet are issues challenging leaders, and particularly women leaders. Change can begin small and have enormous impact, as more women globally are leading and advocating for climate change initiatives. Women are leading in their workplaces and communities through sustainable practices, research, activism, education, policy change and communication.
Who has not been inspired by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg?
“Having completed a transatlantic journey by sailboat, Greta is scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly’s Climate Action Summit, another chance she’ll have to make her no-nonsense appeal to world leaders about the urgent necessity of international action on the climate crisis,” Teen Vogue reports.
UN’s Climate Action Summit is aimed at “substantive participation of women and girls in efforts against climate change,” according to Devex.
A major initiative will focus on gender equality.
“The initiative recognizes the differential impact of climate change on women and girls, and seeks support for their leadership as a way to make climate actions more effective. It calls for the rights, differentiated needs and contributions of women and girls to be integrated into all actions, including those related to climate finance, energy, industry, and infrastructure. It promotes support for women and girls in developing innovative tools and participating in mitigation and adaptation efforts, and calls for accountability by tracking and reporting progress towards achieving these goals,” Devex reports.
Time recently saluted 15 women climate change leaders because women are disproportionately affected by climate change and are leading innovations to change the path.
“From sinking islands to drought-ridden savannas, women bear an outsize burden of the global-warming crisis, largely because of gender inequalities. In many parts of the world, women hold traditional roles as the primary caregivers in families and communities, and, as the main providers of food and fuel, are more vulnerable when flooding and drought occur; the U.N. estimates 80% of those who have been displaced by climate change are women,” Time reports.
“Given their position on the front line of the climate-change battle, women are uniquely situated to be agents of change—to help find ways to mitigate the causes of global warming and to adapt to its impacts on the ground,” Time reports.
Why a sense of urgency and why are women leaders addressing climate change now?
“It is time to address structural environmental ills, particularly climate change, is short—if not already expired—but solutions are available now. Investors need to back sustainable solutions; governments need to incentivize that change; and businesses need to stop implementing strategies that lock in bad practices,” according to the Fortune Global Sustainability Forum newsletter.
According to Forbes, “Fifty-five percent of the surveyed general election voters consider climate change a crisis or a very serious problem, and another 24% consider climate change a somewhat serious problem,” according to Reuters.
Not just political issues, climate change, corporate responsibility and individual contributions are issues in the workplace for organizational and corporate leaders.
The group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice recently joined the Global Climate Strike led by Thunberg. “The employees are calling on Amazon to commit to zero emissions by 2030, cancel the company’s custom contracts that accelerate gas and oil extraction, and cease funding climate denying lobbyists and politicians,” Truthout reports.
Whether as a leader you are initiating policy changes for lower emissions, or as a worker you are requesting political changes and practices in the workplace, the notion of an organization aligned with climate change efforts is a major consideration for hiring and retention.
Climate Week NYC 2019 through September 29 “will see companies working to lower their CO2 emissions while boosting their bottom line and improving overall competitiveness,” according to The Climate Group. Helen Clarkson, Chief Executive Officer, The Climate Group, says, “This is about preparing your business for the future.”
For example, she says, “With electricity demand from air conditioners alone set to more than triple by 2050, companies have an immediate opportunity to invest in energy efficient cooling that will lessen further climate impact and generate substantial financial savings. Major businesses around the world are being challenged to cool their operations in the most energy efficient ways possible, through a new initiative launched by The Climate Group in partnership with the Alliance to Save Energy,” according to The Climate Group.
“Consumers are also due a great deal of credit for demanding that brands do more than pay lip service to sustainability, Vanessa Wright, Pernod Ricard’s vice president for sustainability, tells Fortune. “Interestingly, she says that demand for authentic green initiatives are present in workplaces too. “Consumers are… looking to join companies who are doing that. It’s a real winner, I think, in terms of talent attraction,” Fortune reports.
Quartz reports that employees more so than CEOs are driving the policy changes in the workplace, including those involving climate change issues and sustainability.
“Employees are reshaping the corporate narratives on the importance of ‘purpose’ into forms executives never envisioned. For them, corporate ‘purpose’ is meaningless unless it takes direct aim at the concentration of money and power atop the organization. They are using the tools of hyper-transparency—email leaks and petitions shared with the media—to weaponize readily available internal information,” Quartz reports.
Women employees, leaders and change makers are contributing to the heightened awareness and action on climate change. Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead advocates this precisely in Leadership Power Tool # 9, Take Action, Create a Movement.
As Feldt says, “Things don’t just happen. People make them happen in a systematic way. And you can change systems. Apply the three movement building principles of Sister Courage (be a sister, act with courage, put them together to create a PLAN) and you will realize your vision at work, at home, or in public life.”