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Employee Climate Action Guide

71% of US employees surveyed believe they have the power to make changes in society - and leadership appears to be listening.




In its 2023 CxO Sustainability Report, Deloitte found more than half of C-suite executives saying employee activism on climate had led their organizations to increase sustainability actions over the past year; 24 percent said it led to a “significant” increase.



As an employee, you have a lot of influence within your company, and companies have a lot of power in policy.


You can exert an outsized impact when you raise your voice about climate at work. However, employees don’t often realize that this lever is available to them, and when they do, it can be daunting to act without a playbook and without fellow colleagues to work with.


STEP ONE

Get. The. Facts.

Competition for employee recruitment and retention is a key motivator for publicly stated pro-climate stances. The nation’s future leaders and employee base, Gen Z workers, are most likely to state that climate change is their top concern.


They expect this cause to be reflected in the companies they purchase from and work for. This is one of the leading reasons why employees have such a powerful influence on company climate policies. The question many employees have is, “what can I do?”


Research your company’s stance on climate

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Read your company’s sustainability report and look for actions underway to address Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

  2. Meet with your sustainability or government affairs staff (if you have them) - or ask for key priorities via email.

  3. Look for public statements by company execs or sustainability officers on social media.


Mary Dube

HP, Chief of Staff for Personal Systems Strategy and Planning

How I came to work on climate issues

I was inspired by HP, the first computer manufacturer to make PC components from ocean-bound plastic. The company developed aggressive plans to convert packaging and manufacturing techniques, change its supply chain, and more. Thinking about the difference an organization that ships 1.7 PCs every second could make helped me understand the important role companies play. With the burning question in mind, “what can I do?” I decided to train with the Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit founded by Al Gore that mobilizes people to become powerful climate change activists.


My advice for other workplace climate champions

Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t think you need to be an expert to make a difference. People are looking for leadership right now. Seeing someone make an effort is truly all it takes to inspire them. People come out of the woodwork when they see someone trying. 


Addressing environmental and climate issues makes good business sense… As more companies join the fight against climate change, it’s imperative that they develop an overall climate strategy, communicate clearly and empower the right people to take action.

Employers eyeing people-focused efforts to help achieve climate goals (11/4/2021)


STEP TWO

Find. Your. Influence.

Take advantage of your insider access to connect with the individuals who are key influencers and decision-makers. They are more likely to take your meeting than they are to meet with someone from the outside.


Begin by researching the organizational structure of the Chief Sustainability Officer and Office of Governmental Affairs. If you work for a smaller company without these roles, begin by asking your supervisor for insight on who best to connect with.

Build a power map of key influencers and decision-makers.

Engage your coworkers! Build relationships with fellow employees and decision-makers.


Drew Wilkinson: How I came to work on climate issues


Microsoft is one of the largest companies in the world. As soon as I arrived, I started asking "what is the company doing for the climate crisis?" and "how can regular employees like me use the company's resources to help?" When there weren't clear answers to either, I resolved to find them. I worked with a colleague to convince Microsoft to open its first zero-waste cafeteria. Bolstered by our success, we started a local meetup group in Seattle to find like-minded colleagues. Over time, our sustainability community has grown from a handful of employees in Seattle to a global community with 10,000+ people in 35 chapters around the world.


My advice for other workplace climate champions

Do it, right now. Recognize and seize your power. Employees have immense power over how their companies operate, and a direct line to senior leaders like CEOs to advocate for change from within. Use it, and get organized. The more people you draw into your movement, the harder you will be to ignore. And make it fun! Give people a reason to keep coming back.


I am fighting - as much as I can - for a sustainable and equal world for all. It makes me feel hopeful that big companies like Microsoft take a strong stand on these important issues and I am hoping this article inspires you to do it too.

I am a Sustainability activist at work. And that’s OK. (3/29/2021)


STEP THREE

Engage. Your. Coworkers.

Did you know?

8 out of 10 employees are ready and willing to take action on climate change in their jobs. 45 percent are ready to go even further and become pioneers of climate action within their teams and functions.


Here's how to get started:

Join or start an employee resource group - and request funding if resources allow. Find out if your company has an Employee Resource Group (ERG) focused on sustainability, the environment or climate solutions. If an ERG exists, join and look for ways to lead! If one doesn’t exist, find a climate buddy at work and start planning!

Host an educational event. Book a speaker to present (ClimateVoice is a great place to start).


Create a working group with climate focused goals. Prepare to raise your climate voice and advocate for action.


Employee Resource Groups: Create a Steady Pace of Contact + Build Community

Employee advocacy is typically volunteer work, and it can be difficult to find the time. A climate buddy or an Employee Resource Group will keep you motivated and contribute ideas you hadn’t thought of. If your organization does not have an ERG with this focus, find out how to begin one following the appropriate channels at your organization. Get buy-in from needed staff, define the mission and purpose, begin recruiting fellow members, host initial meetings and set up channels of communication. 


TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE ORGANIZING

Get colleagues motivated and engaged. 

Consider how you can communicate why this issue should matter to them, what they need to know, and what kind of power they have to make a difference on this issue.


Employee-to-employee organizing can make workers feel good and feel proud that they’re not just fighting for their own company to support climate policy. 

They're also helping build worker power overall to create an expectation for corporations to actively advocate for climate policy.


Think systematically about your desired ends and the means it will take to get there.


Carolina Robertson

SAP, Senior User Experience Designer

The Full Spotlight

How I came to work on climate issues

SAP is a global provider of enterprise software. Before working for the company, sustainability was part of my job. When I got to SAP, I started pushing for customer engagements centered around sustainability. SAP was interested in environmentally conscious projects early on and provides technology to manage and measure sustainability metrics. I also work as a Lead Champion for our sustainability employee group. This is an internal program where employees organize themselves to have sustainable practices inside the company. At SAP, we act as sustainability exemplars with our actions and enablers with our products. Additionally, SAP sponsors internal sustainability initiatives every year.


Employees all over the world apply for their local sustainability initiatives ideas.

My advice for other workplace climate champions

When you are getting started, create a sense of community. Create (or find) a group where people are engaged and want to do something. Nurture people's personal interests to create motivation.


Companies will respond when lots of employees come together to demand change. What we have learned through our work at Amazon is that we do have power to influence what Amazon does, but only if we all work together. If companies like Amazon are forced by its own employees to go further faster, that also sets the stage for other companies to follow.

Society Watch: The rise of employee climate activism (Reuters, 3/31/2022)


STEP FOUR

Advocate. For. Action.

Here’s how to get started:

Craft a proposal. Create summary material for decision makers and fellow employees

Draft an advocacy letter. It can be from a small group of committed employees or you can begin gathering signatures to show mass support

Make the pitch: set up a meeting with the executive decision-maker or influencer

Set goals on specific outcomes desired - and create a timeline 

Get clear on next steps. Change takes time - build on each action one step at a time


After the Pitch

Send a follow-up: Recap the discussion and action items, share gratitude for the opportunity to come to the table, and ask for sponsorship.


Debrief with your community: Discuss what worked, what didn’t work, and what was missed. Identify best practices and additional steps to take.


Act on your next step sooner than later: Keep the momentum, and don’t be disparaged if you hit a roadblock. If your target feels out of reach, focus on achieving small wins until you can regroup on the larger issues.


Patrick Feder

Deloitte Consulting LLP, Managing Director

The Full Spotlight

How I came to work on climate issues


Let your passion show and be prepared. If you are part of an existing community or team, use them as a sounding board. If you have a more senior sponsor of an internal team, use them to practice your pitch. And beyond the need to solve the issue, consider the benefits to the company or stakeholders you are pitching to. Think of it as making a business case. And most importantly, act with the intent to make progress, not solve the entire problem. This can help prevent you from overshooting and getting your idea shot down.


My advice for other workplace climate champions

If your organization has an employee sustainability or climate community, join it, evolve it, and make an impact. If it doesn’t, find out if your company has made any public commitments on climate and goals around what it needs to do internally to achieve those commitments. Then, see how you can get involved.





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