Social considerations must also play a crucial part in any corporate (and governmental) efforts to tackle climate change: Millions of people, particularly in vulnerable communities around the world, are bearing the brunt of soil degradation, loss of forests and rising sea levels – the deforestation through wildfires in the Amazon rainforest severely impacting the livelihood of the indigenous population and the growing desertification across Africa hitting the poorest countries are only two examples.
Reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not only intergovernmental efforts are taking shape to address environmental injustice, but also public-private partnerships are committing to ambitious goals: the 2010 Consumer Goods Forum for example, an organisation bringing together CEOs of consumer goods retailers and manufacturers has pledged to achieve net-zero deforestation by 2020.
Companies looking for other corporate partners or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to collaborate with on achieving the SDGs can connect via the UN’s SDG Partnership Platform. Similarly combining social considerations with tackling climate change are members of the global “We Mean Business Coalition”, which so far counts 1,351 companies as its members.
While a steadily growing number of companies are proactively engaging with communities, supply chain partners and NGOs in order to draw up green measures that are fair or help reduce social inequalities, “social laggards” are facing increasingly intense pressure from activist groups, that look at environmental action through a human right lens: The Environmental Justice Foundation has garnered the attention of governments and regulators across the globe with its investigative reports about human rights and environmental violations, which in many cases have led to a tightening of existing regulations or to new laws and hefty fines for corporate perpetrators.
In the US, just recently, the “Environmental Justice for All Act” was unveiled in the US senate, which aims to provide fairer policies and more open processes to communities that historically have been subjected to systemic injustices and greater environmental hazards. If the bill comes into law, it will, amongst other powers, allow private citizens and organisations that experience discrimination in environmental programmes to seek legal remedies.