Earth Day 2021: Human Health, Climate Change, and Corporations

Amidst a global lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19, there were unprecedented environmental events that happened around the globe in 2020. Cities usually blanketed in smog had clear skies. Snow harbored significantly fewer pollutants. Fish and crabs could be seen in the canals of Venice, Italy. Turkeys in Boston were the sole reason for traffic.

As the COVID-19 pandemic shut cities down, humans were able to see first-hand how they are affecting climate change. Unfortunately, most of these wonders will be short lived. As industries and travel pick back up and life quickens again, our impact on the planet will ramp up (think single-use plastics, for health reasons). COVID-19 has pushed climate change into the front of people’s minds, especially as research emerges showing how climate change may have been a factor in the inception and spread of the disease.

In the past decade, consumers, employees, and other stakeholders have begun to ask corporations to help mitigate climate change, without much success. But today, there is an increasing expectation that corporations have a position and policies surrounding ESGs and SDGs. Overwhelmingly, employees want their CEOs to speak out on climate change. And 80% of CEOs believe business has more of a responsibility than ever to address pressing social and environmental issues. The biggest concern for incoming Gen Z employees is climate change, and 90% believe companies must act to help social and environmental issues.

Corporations are realizing that climate change is impacting business. The diminishing supply of natural resources could put a company in jeopardy without alternate means of production. The cost of keeping an office warm or cool during temperature changes will affect bottom lines. Natural disasters are destroying communities where employees live. And there is a positive financial aspect to companies acting:  those that target social and environmental issues in their social impact efforts outperform the rest of the market by 3-5% annually.

It is imperative that CSR professionals consider climate change within the scope of their work. Whether that means working directly with your internal environmental sustainability lead, funding small green technology start-ups, educating employees about climate change inequity, or volunteering for Earth Day 2021, there are endless opportunities to intersect our environment with the work of CSR.

*Data comes from ACCP’s Making the Case for CSR toolkit. Download here.

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