Inside the launch of ClimateVoice

Jay Owen SRI/ESG News, Sustainability News

Speaking of climate

Last week, in the wake of Jeff Bezos’ announcement that he would donate $10 billion of his personal fortune towards efforts to thwart climate change, a group of employees at Amazon took him to task. “When is Amazon going to stop helping oil and gas companies ravage Earth with still more oil and gas wells?” they asked, referring to the company’s cloud computing services aimed at optimizing oil and gas production. The employees also inquired why the company continues to fund climate-denying think tanks.

It’s not enough these days to make a bold company commitment aimed at addressing the climate crisis. Today, companies need to be all in, aligning their products, services, operations, supply chains, philanthropy, employee engagement, community outreach — and, of course, their lobbying and membership in advocacy groups. Anything less could be grounds for employee protests, customer blowback or worse.

We’ll likely be seeing more such actions by employees against their companies’ response to climate change, thanks to a newly formed initiative.

ClimateVoice, launched this weekend at the ClimateCAP conference in Charlottesville, Virginia, is the brainchild of Bill Weihl, who led Facebook’s sustainability team until leaving the company in 2018. Prior to that, he served as Google’s “energy czar” during the early days of that company’s ambitious clean-energy push.

Weihl’s new initiative is aimed at activating college students and rank-and-file employees to persuade their current or would-be employers to take a vocal stand on federal, state and local initiatives that address the climate crisis. It borrows a page from the LGBTQ movement, in which students and employees pressed companies to boycott states with laws that discriminated against lesbian, gay, trans and other individuals based on their sexual preferences.

To start, the initiative is launching efforts to pass climate-friendly legislation in Virginia and Illinois, as well as a regional effort among 13 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. states. It’s ambitious, to be sure, but with employee activism on the rise, the timing just might be right.

This week, I’ve provided an inside look at ClimateVoice — who’s behind it and how it plans to mobilize and enlist students and employees to press companies to be outspoken leaders on climate change. Read on.

Class act: We’ve just opened nominations for the 2020 class of our annual GreenBiz 30 Under 30, which recognizes young professionals tackling some of the toughest sustainability challenges in business. We’ll be accepting nominations through April 3 and announcing the honorees in June. Nominate someone — or yourself — today.