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This Earth Day, The 5 Things We Need to Do to Build Back Better

By Kevin Wilhelm CEO, Sustainable Business Consulting

Happy Earth Week everyone. For many of us who work in the sustainability/ESG space, this is the time of year where everyone is asking “what can we do for Earth Day?” In years past, our firm Sustainable Business Consulting has worked to help firms find volunteer opportunities, motivational speakers, and even created a “50 things you can do at home and at work” for companies looking to engage their employees and share simple ways we can all do a difference.

Not this year. We need to do more.

Coming out of the pandemic, it’s time for boldness, leadership, and action.

Therefore, rather than looking for “nice to-dos”, we need everyone to work within their organizations to do these 5 things:

1.Integrate Climate/Sustainability efforts with Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts

Far too many organizations have these as distinct and separate working groups. We cannot solve our climate and environmental crisis unless we also work towards social justice, diversity & inclusivity. We have to drive down GHG emissions but do it equitably with a focus on the hardest-hit populations. Companies need to look for those opportunities to drive down pollution in socially and economically distressed communities AND look for ways to do this that also drive positive economic impact. The HEAL Act (Healthy Environment for All - WA State Senate Bill 5141) calls for just this.

2. Set bold, Science Based Targets.

Recently 300+ corporations signed a letter to President Biden demanding that the US cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. This and more is required if our planet is going to have a chance. Companies need to set Science-Based Reduction Targets, based on what the planet and civilization need, not on what they feel like they can achieve.

3. Get involved on Policy.

For too long, organizations have sat back on important social and environmental issues because they didn’t want to upset a set of their customers and investors. This time has passed, and as recent research by Edelman shows that consumers are demanding and rewarding companies that are taking bold action on climate. They realize that without major, substantive policy changes, that not only are the things they love about nature and the places they recreate are at risk, but so too are the very business models that many companies exist.

4. Look deep into your supply chain.

For companies that aren’t in the manufacturing, energy, or extractive industries, the largest share of their impact occurs in their Scope 3 emissions – especially their supply chain. Yes, this is difficult, but just as companies rose to the occasion to address social issues like sweatshops and prison labor, they too must commit to and force their suppliers to take action on climate change. Large companies like Microsoft, Walmart, Target, IBM, BMW and others have been asking this for years, but it’s time for every organization to do this, to truly address where the major environmental impacts of their products and services are coming from.

5. Do More.

If you think your organization and you personally are doing enough – sorry, but you are not.

Do more. Get involved politically, advocate, give money if you can’t do these things, if you can’t afford to, then find ways to help your workplace, your community groups and your neighborhood do more. We don’t have time. We all need to act, and we need to dig deeper and do more.