The communities that bear the brunt of the effects of climate change are often the least likely to contribute to the problem.
Many of these communities are small farmers and workers who produce some of the world’s largest agricultural products, including cocoa, coffee, tea, palm oil, and sugar. Variable climate has clear environmental impacts; it also exacerbates existing social and economic inequalities.
Climate justice is about working at the crossroads of social, economic and environmental inequalities associated with climate change. When an organization takes a human rights and development approach, it aims to internalize the voices of the most vulnerable and protect their rights.
Many companies continue to question the inclusion of climate justice in their sustainability strategies and, instead, their inclusion in the diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) agendas. When we take the DEI in the context of an overall sustainability strategy, however, we ensure that the voices of those most affected are where climate-related decisions are made. This helps companies to have a greater impact on the resilience of these communities and their operations.
The vulnerabilities of climate change are complex and widespread in the case of agricultural commodities. Where the crop grows (specific country or region), commodity market prices, supply chain power dynamics, and the level of government support available to those affected are affected.
For example, a heat wave will have a completely different effect on female Indian cotton farmers than on a male Australian cotton farmer who copes with forest fires and lack of rain. This diversity of vulnerabilities makes it difficult for companies to take into account specific interest groups in determining how to share the burdens of climate change and the benefits of climate change policies, such as net zero.
Climate justice … can be a challenge for many businesses. It is not so closely linked to business activities, such as better salaries or better incomes, and requires investment in areas that may or may not be directly related to business operations.
Companies that supply goods at risk of deforestation, including beef, palm, soybean, cocoa, and others, have long understood this, and perhaps better than other sectors. As the Director of the IDH UK, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, a public and private partnership that works with global partnerships, I have the privilege of working closely not only with these companies, but also with commodity-producing governments. countries and civil society.
IDH’s 2021 FACT Interview with the UK Government’s Smallholder Support Working Group highlighted the work at COP26 in Glasgow highlighting the long-standing voice and active presence of Indigenous groups in discussions on deforestation and land rights. In fact, the FACT roadmap specifically calls for funding to “sustainably increase productivity, reduce vulnerability, and increase resilience to climate change, market shocks, and other major risks to livelihoods” based on contributions from indigenous and youth groups.
This call for government is reinforced by the commitments of companies such as The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Forest Positive Coalition of Action, and practical tools such as IDH’s SourceUp. This platform connects agricultural commodity companies with more than 20 multi-interest initiatives in jurisdictions committed to sustainable production and inclusive governance of sensitive forest areas.
Ultimately, the real solutions to climate change will come from those most affected. It is important to honor these voices. The Mary Robinson Foundation is well known for raising the voice of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, for example by linking grassroots initiatives led by women in G40 cities and countries with policy makers and world leaders. The COP26 Coalition organized 806 actions for climate justice worldwide for the COP26. Investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has shaped national conversations about education reform in the United States through her work on racial segregation in American society and her role in the 1619 Project. All of these efforts focus on the vulnerable and marginalized populations in a unique way, provide a historical perspective on which current inclusion efforts are based, or provide frameworks for measuring impact.
The company can take action in four specific ways:
- Work with expert partners to identify and engage the right stakeholders in your decision-making. For example, building farmers ’resilience by helping them earn an income by working with partners who can raise the voice of small farmers. And once you’ve identified and included the right stakeholders, listen and listen to their advice.
- Work with your peers to make the competition a pre-existing collaboration rule for fast progress. No single company can solve all the problems that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This collaboration can also be carried out under the umbrella of the so-called “landscape approach”, where climate justice focuses on the planning process.
- At first it was impossible to take advantage of new technologies that offer avenues for inclusion. It can serve as a tool to raise the needs of particularly vulnerable voices, allowing them to draw direct attention to specific issues. For example, the Scottish Stop Cambo campaign used social tools to bring the voices of young people and grassroots activists into the discussion of fossil fuels. Technology can also provide a way to collect and disseminate data that support the life experience of marginalized groups.
- Use fast pilots to gather data and open up as you change your focus. Recognize that an unusual approach to consultation, planning, implementation, learning, and repetition may be necessary. The real impact is that a fair transition cannot be achieved without fundamental changes in business models.
Businesses should take the necessary steps to identify the communities most at risk of climate change in their supply chains and work with them to adapt and create resilience. Climate justice as a concept can be a challenge for many businesses. It is not so closely related to business activities, such as better salaries or better incomes, and requires investment in areas that may or may not be directly related to business operations. But what is clear is that if companies do not come together to create solutions, their business could be in jeopardy.
Climate change has already shown its ability to adapt to the most affected farmers and workers, focusing on good agricultural practices, agroecology and equitable, inclusive and sustainable land rights and management. This is why it is essential to not only take their perspectives into account when designing the future, but also to learn and work with them. Only then can it be fair.