Although the business community has made progress toward climate goals since the 2015 Paris Agreement, less than a fifth of the net-zero targets set by national and subnational governments and only a third of the largest public Corporations with net-zero targets actually meet science-aligned criteria. In addition, anti-climate lobbying has a devastating impact on the planet and costs years of meaningful action. Inaction is not an option. Businesses committed to being on the right side of history must advocate for policies, regulations, and legislation to achieve systemic change throughout the economy at the pace and scale necessary to achieve these goals. climate target. Based on their cross-organizational work with three B Corps, the authors identify five critical elements for advocacy strategies that help businesses use their power and influence to drive systemic change. which is needed to meet climate targets.
“We have a chance to make more changes, but that time is over. Only a radical transformation of our economies and societies will save us from accelerating climate catastrophe,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). The data is clear: Global emissions are increasing. Voluntary pledges to prevent new fossil fuel projects and combat destructive practices such as mass deforestation have failed to prevent environmental destruction and rising global inequality.
Inaction is not an option. Businesses committed to being on the right side of history must advocate for policies, regulations, and legislation to achieve systemic change throughout the economy at the pace and scale necessary to achieve these goals. climate target. This means working on their own methods of change as well as joining forces with others to create the critical mass needed for widespread change.
Based on our cross-organizational work with three B Corps — Natura & Co (Charmian), Patagonia (Beth), and Ecosia (Sophie) — we identified five critical elements for advocacy strategies that help business to use their power and influence to push for the systemic change needed to meet climate targets.
Advocacy for Systemic Change
Although the business community did progress towards climate goals since the 2015 Paris Agreement, less than one-fifth of net-zero targets set by national and subnational governments and only a third of the largest public corporations with net-zero targets have actually met scientifically compatible standards. In addition, anti-climate lobbying has a devastating impact on the planet and costs years of meaningful action.
The nonprofit B Lab UK divides the system change into two parts:
- Regulatory change. Companies can work with legislators, trade associations, and NGOs to shape legislative changes. For example, before the UN General Assembly in 2022, the Climate Champions Team working with experts from across the voluntary, standards, and regulatory publishing landscape Pivot Point reportwhich proposes different policy interventions that will build on global campaigns Race to Zero and Race of Strength.
- Cultural change. Even with the right policies in place, we know that the culture needs to change for it to be effective. Businesses can engage in culture change using tools including media and advertising to promote and foster new behaviors, raise awareness of important issues, educate consumers on why change is important -or in policy, and show them how to get others involved to make change happen. For example, the recent step towards repair outdoor equipment rather than replacing it – pioneered in the 1970s by Patagonia but now common among outdoor manufacturers and retailers – encourages consumers to think about their consumption habits.
In thinking about the regulatory and cultural elements of system change, avoid reducing advocacy to externally-facing corporate initiatives and programs. The internal advocacy program plays an important role in mobilizing people within the business, encouraging a desire among workers to engage and enabling them to take action.
Recent research from political scientist Erica Chenoweth shows just how much influence people “on the inside” have when it comes to pushing for changes at the government level. “The 3.5% rule,” developed by Chenoweth in 2012, provides evidence to show that governments are generally unable to withstand the force of 3.5% of the population engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience. It’s been a decade, their revisiting of those research shows the importance of securing support from powerbrokers from institutions that benefit from the status quo, such as corporations and shareholders.
Designing an Advocacy Strategy
GlobeScan 2022 Sustainability Leaders Survey compiled the views of more than 700 sustainability experts worldwide and found that advocacy is increasingly seen as a business leadership behavior. Now is the time for business leaders to develop advocacy strategies for their companies.
A comprehensive, meaningful advocacy strategy must be anchored in a core set of principles. Through our cross-organizational work, we have identified these 5 As of advocacy to serve as a foundation:
Center your advocacy on your company’s story, including where, why, and how it got started, and what problem it’s trying to solve. Transparency is critical — even if the story isn’t always perfect. For example, The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, started a business based on his love for the mountains. Over time, proximity to nature has helped strengthen Patagonia’s commitment to protecting our “home planet.”
Not every business has a purpose embedded in its history in this way – and that’s OK. This is not a requirement, but what is needed is transparency to build trust and meaningfully engage in advocacy work focused on system change going forward. Take for example Interface, a carpet tile company founded in 1973 by Ray Anderson. In 1994, Anderson had an “epiphany” and started the company Mission Zero initiative, with the goal of eliminating the negative impact of Interface on the environment by 2020. The company celebrated the achievement of that goal in 2019 and continues to launch climate change initiatives, including through participation in other businesses.
Establish science-based targets to set improvement goals rather than being limited by what feels possible. For example, Ecosia has become one of the largest reforestation movements in the world by using 100% of its income for climate action. On top of that, Ecosia’s green search engine runs on 200% renewable energy.
Encourage employees to take action and become advocates for system change. The full power of a business comes when every employee feels supported and empowered to use their own voice to stand up for issues they care about – within the business through the decisions they make in their work as well as outside their own social. and community circles.
For example, Natura’s “The Future is in Your Hands” campaign was launched on World Amazon Day, a critical period leading up to the 2022 Brazilian elections. This campaign mobilized employees as well as the wider public to take action to protect Amazon. The business also created a “conscious voting” campaign for its network of approximately 2 million consultants and representatives of the Natura and Avon brands, most of whom are women. João Paulo Ferreira, CEO of Natura &Co Latin America, explained, “Research shows that female voters are more reluctant to participate in elections. On the other hand, they want to know more about making their own decisions decision, and we know the power of women to influence their families and communities.
While many company leaders may not feel comfortable engaging with or showing support for social movements, bringing a business voice to the table can make a big difference in protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized. in society.
For example, Ecosia promotes “Climate Cafes,” where young people can turn eco-anxiety into action organized by the youth-led movement Force of Nature. As part of their global activism strategy, the Natura & Co brand The Body Shop takes a long-term view and promotes policy and law changes that allow greater participation of youth in politics and public life. And Patagonia regularly holds “Tools” conferences to teach campaigning, social media, publicity, and fundraising skills to strengthen small, grassroots NGOs.
Governments around the world are failing to protect the most vulnerable. Businesses must play an important role in correcting the current trajectory by putting people, justice, and human rights at the center of climate action – civil society and youth movements cannot do this and not necessary.
All three of our companies have dedicated strategies focused on listening, supporting, and amplifying the voices of indigenous communities, even in the Amazon, where Natura works with 40 local and traditional communities, or the Atlantic Forest, where Ecosia works with PACT Mata Atlântica, an umbrella organization of over 300 tree planting projects.
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As you develop your advocacy strategy, be aware of the obstacles you are likely to face. Some people challenge the role of business in participating in democratic systems that guide policy making. That’s true, but with governments struggling to stay within climate targets, progressive business leaders who are themselves committed to net-zero and beyond need to hold governments and major polluters accountable and ensuring that net-zero targets are embedded in strong policies, regulations, and laws.