It’s time for business to step up.
One week ago, my office closed down to participate in a local Climate Strike, one of the thousands of Fridays for Future events being held across the globe. LOACOM joined countless other businesses, nonprofits, youth organizations, and others stepping directly into the climate conversation. Like so many others, we didn’t just close down shop: we let our clients and customers know, we talked about it on social media, and we encouraged others to do the same.
As a movement company, LOACOM has never shied away from issues that some might consider controversial. Our years working in, with, and for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors have always included the integration of social and environmental concerns into the core fabric of our work. This approach is part of our DNA and our history.
But this time, on this occasion, it was different. A global movement led by youth re-ignited a flame that many of us had failed to keep burning despite years/decades of trying. Be it through previous advocacy work, nonprofit or political campaigns, business collaboratives, or new and unique product plays, nothing really seemed to galvanize a critical subset of society towards a common cause. But now, led by a youth movement that seems to have arrived at the perfect time and place, there was a new energy.
Looking at it through their eyes — or, for me, through the eyes of my 4-month old son Rio — many of us felt a new sense of urgency. The whole world felt it.
The call of the youth was squarely aimed at adults, demanding that we take steps to preserve their future by changing the way we view and interact with the world. They demanded action of us and, as was witnessed worldwide, global action was indeed taken. The challenge now is in putting that widespread but largely symbolic action of recent marches into a tangible, change-oriented movement.
To help build that movement, it is my belief that business must be a key driver in any next steps aimed at shaping a healthy and sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. It’s time for business to step up.
A New Role for Business
For hundreds of years, industry, corporations, and the business as usual mantra have been destructive, extractive, and degenerative forces on the planet that have shattered communities, decimated ecosystems, driven species to extinction, and depleted and contaminated our shared, natural ‘resources.’ Business as usual has been a key force that has dug the deep, deep hole that society now finds itself desperately trying to dig out of.
With society as we know it on the brink, business as usual is over.
We live in an era that demands coordinated and immediate action to address the climate crisis. And in stark contradiction to its past role as destroyer, the role of business in building a new movement as a partner in healing has never been more critical.
While the HIStorical corporate culture (emphasis on ‘his’) described above has landed us plainly in perilous territory, there is an emerging, quickly growing movement of forward-thinking businesses that recognize both the severity of the crisis as well as the solutions-based role that companies play in meeting this enormous challenge head-on.
There is no clearer example than Patagonia, Inc., who recently changed its mission statement to “We’re in the business to save our home planet.” Patagonia has emerged as the clear leader in leveraging its brand, it’s customer base, it’s products, and it’s global voice to call for policy changes, changes in consumer habits, getting out the vote, and direct activation of its customers on the many issues facing the planet. If ever there was a company effectively leveraging its vast resources to build a better world, Patagonia is it.
But one need not be a Patagonia-sized company to play a role and have impact.
1% for the Planet, founded by Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard in 2002, is a great example. Currently made up of 2,000 business members of all sizes in over 45 countries, 1% for the Planet members donate 1% of annual revenues to conservation nonprofit organizations. Collectively, 1% for the Planet members have channeled millions of dollars in giving to such issues as climate, water, wildlife, and more. This type of philanthropy isn’t necessarily a new model, but its uniqueness lays in the strategic approach of collective giving towards a specific end by a group of like-minded companies.
The B-Corp movement is another prime example of ‘businesses for good.’ Each of the 3,000 businesses in this growing global network have been certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency that evaluate how their practices impact their employees, the community, the environment, and their customers. At the recent B-Lab (B-Corp’s certifying agency) retreat in Hollywood, 700 business representatives discussed how to best leverage their brand and their business acumen towards building a better world. Climate was at the top of the agenda.
Smart businesses and their executive teams now recognize fundamental truths: there’s no business on a dead planet. There is no more ‘long-term’ externalizing of costs. There is no ‘away.’
Business as usual is over.
Stepping Into the Game
At LOACOM, we often say that ‘the sidelines are no place for playmakers.’ To play the game, we have to be on the field.
Our call to action is this: businesses of all sizes must step off the sidelines and get actively engaged in leveraging their resources, their networks, their capital, their employees, and their customers in advocating for climate solutions.
Whether you’re the CEO of a hot new brand, a manager at a community bank, a coffee shop or hair salon owner, a principal at a PR agency, a partner in a law or architectural firm, a health and nutrition educator, an enthusiastic solo-preneur, or anyone else, it’s time to focus on our collective futures and get off the sidelines and into this crazy game.
Businesses must join with nonprofit organizations, community organizers, social justice and environmental advocates — all who have been at this effort far longer — to quickly move the needle out of the panic zone and into a place focused on healing and regeneration.
We clearly can’t afford to lose this game, and while we can’t buy ourselves extra time or points, we can bring in more players. Doing so may be the best chance we have to turn this thing around.
We find ourselves in a unique and unparalleled situation. With every step we take, we are literally charting the future trajectory for the world our children will inherit. We have the opportunity and responsibility to build a future that we feel proud about handing off to the coming generations.
Here are a few ideas to help business owners get started:
+ If your company is already engaged in the climate movement, thank you. See if you can encourage fellow executives, business associates, colleagues, and others in your immediate ecosystem to join you. Give them examples of how you and your employees are engaging and see if they’d be interested in following suit.
+ Encourage employees to volunteer for climate action nonprofits, offering paid time off for X number of hours/year. Build this into your employee manual. We offer 3 paid volunteer days per year.
+ Incentivize employees to bike, walk, or bus to work. We use farmers’ market tokens for each car-free trip to the office per week.
+ Hold letter-writing campaigns in your office to policymakers and/or nonprofits working on the front lines. We’ve teamed up with Lost Art of Love Letters on multiple occasions. Order pizzas, salads, and brews, invite friends, and make it fun.
+ Dedicate a portion of your sales to climate action organizations, or 1% for the Planet. We’ve donated to the Community Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Center, Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, International Bird Rescue, and others as part of our 1% commitment.
+ Activate your customers via digital climate campaigns. Amazon Watch, 350.org, and many others are constantly mobilizing their digital audiences. Lend em’ a hand, or run your own campaign.
+ Find an upcoming climate action near you and close down shop for a day (or even a few hours). Encourage your employees to take part. The Friday for Futures website could be a good resource for future actions.
Most of the above steps are relatively simple, but taking any of them will make a difference. And with every additional business that takes a few steps of their own, the impacts are magnified.
Let’s do this. Let’s leverage the resources that businesses bring to the table and use them as a force for good.
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