By Austyn Gaffney
Wayne Brensinger, 63, has spent his entire life exploring Deer View Farm in eastern Pennsylvania. From an early age, he hunted squirrels and deer, drank clean spring water, and meandered down game trails through 500 acres of Northern Appalachian woodlands, with just 25 acres cleared for corn and soybeans. The property, in his family for over 150 years, was an idyllic place to grow up and raise his own children.
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By Sarah Sax
At the end of February, thousands of cleaning workers in Minneapolis marched in what's believed to have been the first union-authorized climate strike in the United States. The protesters, many of them immigrants and people of color who have seen their communities harmed by everything from air pollution to drought, wanted their employers to take action on climate change.
Corporations Speaking Out<p>Advocates like Levine and Weihl argue that in the absence of U.S. leadership on the federal level, companies need to step to the front on climate change.</p><p>In 2015, nations agreed to limit temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) under the Paris climate accord. Since then, the number of Fortune 500 companies pledging to reduce their carbon emissions has quadrupled, according to <a href="https://www.naturalcapitalpartners.com/news-resources/article/deeds-not-words-new-research-reveals-the-climate-action-of-fortune-500-glob" target="_blank">a 2019 report</a> from the consultancy firm Natural Capital Partners ― with employee demands identified as a key driver behind much of this corporate action.</p><p>Microsoft and Google parent company Alphabet, for instance, recently<a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/microsoft-raises-stakes-in-corporate-climate-pledge-race-11579195800?mod=article_inline" target="_blank"> made climate pledges</a> in part prompted by employees demanding more action.</p>
Engaging With Employees<p>Perhaps no company's employee activism has been more in the spotlight recently than Amazon's.</p><p>Last September, along with several other corporations, Amazon made its "<a href="https://press.aboutamazon.com/news-releases/news-release-details/amazon-co-founds-climate-pledge-setting-goal-meet-paris" target="_blank">climate pledge</a>," committing to net zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030, ahead of a massive planned <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/amazon-climate-pledge-employee-walkout/" target="_blank">employee walkout</a>. Then in February, the online giant <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/jeff-bezos-climate-change-richest-man-in-the-world_n_5e4af0aac5b65f25da4daace" target="_blank">announced a $10 billion fund</a> to fight climate change.</p><p>While <a href="https://medium.com/@amazonemployeesclimatejustice/amazon-employees-share-our-views-on-company-business-f5abcdea849" target="_blank">broadly supportive </a>of CEO Jeff Bezos' pledge and the climate fund, employees continue to push Amazon to embrace climate action across its entire business, protesting its role in providing oil companies with the technology to <a href="https://t.co/D5YKfDnOR2?amp=1" target="_blank">find drillable oil faster</a> and in <a href="https://twitter.com/AMZNforClimate/status/1229504923194183680" target="_blank">funding climate change denial groups</a>. The relationship between Amazon and its employees remains contentious, as criticism rises over its response to both climate change and working conditions during the pandemic.</p><p>In April, the company <a href="https://grist.org/justice/amazon-fires-employees-who-spoke-out-about-coronavirus-and-climate-change/" target="_blank">reportedly fired</a> two employees who had been outspoken about climate change. During a virtual webcast organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice on April 16 ― which the company <a href="https://medium.com/@amazonemployeesclimatejustice/amazon-sick-out-3d61b5a7ebfa" target="_blank">reportedly tried to thwart </a>― the two urged their former co-workers to stage a virtual walkout to protest their firings and the treatment of warehouse workers amid the COVID-19 crisis.</p><p>Some companies have been proactive in accommodating their employees ― such as <a href="https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/9/20/20876098/brands-global-climate-strike-closing" target="_blank">Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's</a>, which closed their shops for the Global Climate Strike last September ― but Amazon has done the opposite. It recently <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/jan/27/amazon-workers-climate-protest" target="_blank">introduced a policy</a> barring employees from publicly criticizing the company without prior approval. </p><p>When asked about the rise in employee activism and the firing of the two workers, an Amazon spokesperson told HuffPost that "we support every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies.</p><p>"The price of ignoring or dismissing employee activism could be huge. According to a survey by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, employee activism could cost organizations up to <a href="https://www.herbertsmithfreehills.com/latest-thinking/the-new-world-of-work-report-warns-of-an-unprecedented-rise-in-workplace-activism-v2" target="_blank">25% of their global revenue</a> each year due to the disruptive nature of strikes and reputational damage leading to lost business.</p><p>"Today the purpose of a company has to align with climate change and employees are calling really strongly for that," said Farid Baddache, the CEO and co-founder of the sustainability consulting and impact investing firm <a href="https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=ksapa" target="_blank">Ksapa</a>.</p>
The Future Workforce<p>Figuring out how to navigate a world in which employees expect businesses to operate with a purpose beyond the bottom line may not be easy for companies, but it is critical because this new wave of activism is connected to the shifting demographics of the workforce.</p><p>Millennials now make up <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/11/millennials-largest-generation-us-labor-force/" target="_blank">over a third</a> of the U.S. workforce, constituting the largest share of any generation. They are more likely than older generations to be employee activists, according to one <a href="https://www.webershandwick.com/news/employee-activism-age-of-purpose/" target="_blank">survey by Weber Shandwick</a>. And according to <a href="https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fblog.linkedin.com%2F2018%2Fjune%2F26%2Fworkplace-culture-trends-the-key-to-hiring-and-keeping-top-talent&data=02%7C01%7COQuadri%40globeandmail.com%7C9101bc35bcb54d3ecc1c08d73d36827b%7C44376110425e46ab942e26c9518bfd03%7C1%7C0%7C637045176640937982&sdata=dG6zumFzWGrTSL6eJQpeZhVyoytwKb7Rn25nBmCGMcI%3D&reserved=0" target="_blank">LinkedIn's 2018 Workplace Report</a>, 86% of millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work for companies whose values aligned with their own.</p><p>For Jake Elliott, 34, who specifically chose to work for Vermont solar power company SunCommon because the firm shared his values, climate change is "the number one most important thing."</p><p>"When you look at global carbon emissions, the majority of carbon emissions are <a href="https://www.cdp.net/en/articles/media/new-report-shows-just-100-companies-are-source-of-over-70-of-emissions" target="_blank">coming from businesses</a>, so it is an obligation and requirement of business to address the climate crisis," he told HuffPost.</p><p>Younger generations "don't want to commit to work for a company that is contributing to climate change," said Baddache, "or if they believe that the company is part of the problem rather than the solution."</p><p>Corporate America is increasingly aware of this. "The talent Adobe wishes to recruit and retain expects us to set meaningful climate goals and work to meet them," Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist at Adobe has <a href="http://media.virbcdn.com/files/5c/aa8193f038934840-Dec2019RE100ProgressandInsightsAnnualReport.pdf" target="_blank">said previously</a>. "Our employees want to see us take good action but not just among a flurry of other companies doing the same thing ― it has to have a meaningful impact."</p><p>This sentiment is true not just among current employees but also future ones. A group of <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/climatechange-lawyer-protests/yale-harvard-law-students-boycott-paul-weiss-over-exxon-ties-idUSL1N2A71XR" target="_blank">law students at Yale and Harvard</a>, for example, are boycotting internships with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison because it represents Exxon Mobil. They're <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/climatechange-lawyer-protests/yale-harvard-law-students-boycott-paul-weiss-over-exxon-ties-idUSL1N2A71XR" target="_blank">accusing the law firm</a> of enabling the destructive impact of the world's largest oil company in the climate crisis. </p><p>"Companies need to hire people and they need to retain people," Weihl said. This will all become more difficult "if they are on the wrong side of an issue that many of their employees see as an existential threat to their future."</p>
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By Tom Levitt
The future of food doesn't have to include animals. At least that's what Miyoko Schinner believes. "A lot of farmers see us as a threat," Schinner said of her Californian plant-based dairy company, Miyoko's Creamery.
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By Maddy Savage
Americans love their cars — their gas-guzzling, air-polluting, smog-producing cars. Although the vast majority agree that if we all drove electric vehicles we could reduce oil consumption and pollution, only a third would consider buying one anytime soon. Far fewer are actually making the switch.
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