Hats off to climate champions at work
The United States recently observed Labor Day, a celebration of the contributions of the American worker. It’s a time to acknowledge the people who build and maintain the foundation our country rests on—the people who, often without being noticed, enable us to power our lives, move from place to place, access food and shelter, and much more.
Today, for a world in the throes of an increasingly unstable climate and with a vanishing window of time to slash the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing it, the holiday is particularly meaningful. Because to solve climate change, we need to dramatically scale up climate solutions, and fast. That will take massive numbers of skilled workers building a future replete with heat pumps, mass transit, electric vehicles and chargers, solar panels, and much more, all aimed at permanently and comprehensively displacing the polluting industries of the past.
In other words, Labor Day celebrates the power of the worker to transform the world.
We also need people in desk jobs transforming the existing system from the inside. Businesses, especially large, multinational corporations, are disproportionately responsible for the planet-warming emissions that cause climate change, and they have a grave responsibility—as well as the resources—to address it. Employees across every business and every department can apply a climate lens to their job to help their company advance their climate work more expediently and expansively, and hold their employer accountable to their climate promises.
The phrase “every job is a climate job” is not hyperbole. We need all people engaged from wherever they stand. Within every sector, every trade, and every business, workers must be protected, equipped, and supported in building the world of the future and transitioning us away from the polluting businesses and industries of the past.
Worker power—whether it’s security to ask for safer, more sustainable working conditions, tools to take climate action at work, or solidarity in holding employers accountable—is core to the work of Drawdown Labs.
This Labor Day, we’re taking a moment to celebrate those who are bringing climate solutions into the world and their work, transforming the existing system from the inside. Last week, we asked Project Drawdown newsletter subscribers to share how they are taking climate action at work. We were inspired by what we heard, and reminded that it is workers themselves who are best positioned to lead us into the future because they are closest to the issues and they know best how to implement solutions.
Here are some highlights from what you all have shared:
Theme #1: You are making your everyday work—and that of your team members—more efficient and sustainable.
- Some anesthesiologists are averting tons of greenhouse gas emissions by switching the anesthetic they use away from a potent greenhouse gas toward a more sustainable product. These anesthesiologists are also spreading the word with the goal of getting others to make the switch.
- Concerned for their respiratory health, a fleet manager at a large tech company convinced their employer to switch to an all-electric fleet.
- Community workers pledged to use cargo bicycle services instead of diesel vans to transport equipment to local schools for scientific outreach events.
- Leadership at a top law firm decided to offer pro bono legal counsel to climate organizations and worker protection initiatives.
Theme #2: You are integrating climate action or reduced emissions into the product or service you or your business provides.
- Product designers are sharing ways they have successfully integrated “sustainable nudges” into digital products. (For more specifically on the gaming sector, please see here.)
- Consultants are integrating climate action into their work by translating climate solutions into “business speak” for clients.
- Event caterers have transitioned their business model to offer fully vegetarian menus for events and meetings.
- A senior manager at a large multinational corporation established a task force to review and revise the organization’s procurement policy to include preferences and requirements for sustainable products, services, and suppliers.
- At a university, faculty and student services are working together to host green travel workshops for visiting students. The workshops provide practical support and encourage students to use public transit rather than flying for leisure travel.
- A field scientist pledged to work with their IT and procurement departments to clean the data from 200 mobile phones left over from one research project in order to reuse and/or recycle them.
- A mathematics professor decided to pause their research and instead invest their time organizing other professors and academic resources to support local climate projects in need of their expertise.
- A retiree is using their skills to perform energy audits for households that can't normally afford them, not only helping them make their homes more energy-efficient, but also helping stop climate change.
Theme #3: You are pushing your company to use its influence to affect climate change in the broader world.
- An executive in the treasurer’s office for a private company is exploring how the company can decarbonize its banking and bring other businesses along with them on their journey.
- An advertising sales manager helped launch and acquire executive sponsorship for their company’s first employee green group and is helping others do the same within their own companies.
- Employees in the healthcare sector are encouraging low-carbon travel policies and calculating the carbon footprint of scientific research conferences.
Solving climate change will require that each of us chooses, day after day, shift after shift, to work toward a healthier, more vibrant, more resilient future. We can’t just sit back and wait for our leaders to take us there. Every one of us must bring our unique talents and skills to bear on the task of shaping a better future together.
The climate solutions that we know can do the job are the result of the work of countless farmers, builders, Indigenous people, engineers, educators, foresters, healthcare workers, and others who have brought these actions to light. Whether they will be applied at the scope and scale needed to stop climate change depends on what we choose to do next.
Labor Day celebrates the power of the worker to transform the world. This year it matters more than ever. Because ultimately, our future rests on each and every one of us.