October 13, 2022
Climate Week: Now what?
Between keynote talks, sold-out panel discussions and early looks at some new content, Project Drawdown was proud to bring climate solutions to the main stage at Climate Week NYC last month. But now that the festivities are over … what’s next? One of the obvious criticisms of Climate Week and other climate conferences is that they encourage thousands of people—ourselves included—to descend upon remote destinations, with all the planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions that go along with it. Look, nothing compares to experiencing the palpable energy in a room during a vibrant discussion, or the deep trust and alliances that can be built between people and movements when they happen across a table instead of behind a screen. But we need to make sure that all those big climate announcements and pats on the back lead to tangible climate action, or we’re exacerbating the problem we’re working to solve. At Drawdown Labs, we advocate for stronger accountability from our private sector partners, urging the businesses we work with to set measurable targets and be transparent about how they’re measuring up against their climate promises. So in that spirit, we’re sharing some of what we launched during Climate Week—and some ways you can hold us accountable to them. Align climate funding with a Drawdown Roadmap: At the Nest Summit, Project Drawdown executive director Jonathan Foley presented new, cutting-edge work to align funding decisions made by philanthropists and investors with Earth’s “carbon portfolio.” By leveraging the best science, we can better identify when, how, and where to direct capital to fund strategic climate solutions. Hold us accountable: In the coming months, look for the launch of our new network of philanthropists and investors who will work with us to better align catalytic capital with strategic climate solutions—making funding decisions that are guided by science and rooted in our planetary carbon portfolio. Normalize drawdown-aligned business climate leadership. In a lively panel discussion, six climate advocates came together to illustrate how businesses can go beyond “net zero” to helping the world achieve drawdown quickly and safely, and with equity and justice at the heart of the transition. Hold us accountable: By early 2023, we will make specific metrics for each aspect of the Drawdown Aligned Business Framework publicly available. By the end of 2023, we aim to align each of our formal Drawdown Labs business partners with this framework. Equip employees to take tangible climate action at work. At the Marketplace of the Future, we soft-launched our Job Function Action Guides, equipping employees in seven common corporate job functions to accelerate and expand their company’s climate action far beyond the sustainability team. Hold us accountable: By the end of 2022, we aim to get our climate action checklists into the hands of at least 1,000 corporate employees and begin tracking their impacts. In early 2023, we’ll release action guides for at least three new job functions. Galvanize new forms of climate leadership in new sectors. Project Drawdown hosted a panel discussion with the lead vocalist of the Lumineers, a retired NHL hockey player, and others in the live events space to explore how cultural icons and institutions can move climate leadership faster and reach new audiences. Hold us accountable: By the middle of next year, Project Drawdown and our partners will publish a crosswalk of the Drawdown Aligned Business framework and the live events space, identifying key leverage points in live events that can help the world achieve drawdown. Did your company or institution make a climate pledge/promise/commitment during Climate Week? If so, make it count. And think about how your role might contribute to helping them get there and helping the broader world achieve drawdown, quickly, safely, and equitably.
February 22, 2022
Decisive Climate Moments Call for Bold New Tactics
One of the most confounding realities of the climate crisis is that two seemingly contradictory facts are simultaneously true: that humanity has at our fingertips the solutions to fix it at the very same time that global greenhouse gas emissions soar higher than ever. By now the world has a solid understanding of what the solutions to the climate crisis are. Aggregating, communicating, and accelerating the adoption of these solutions is the reason Project Drawdown exists. But as emissions continue to rise, it’s clear that we haven’t nailed the ‘how.’ How do we scale climate solutions across every sector of the economy so comprehensively and decisively that they permanently displace our current systems—systems that we now know to be incompatible with a livable world? Tapping the biggest leverage points we have at our disposal to scale existing climate solutions is now of existential importance. And right now one of these leverage points—federal climate policy, and specifically the climate provisions that were previously housed in the Build Back Better Act— hangs in the balance. And this is why Drawdown Labs, the program I lead at Project Drawdown, recently took out a full-page print ad in The New York Times. Our ad had three key messages. The first one was a reminder to the Times’ 4 million readers that the solutions to the climate crisis already exist today. It’s nearly impossible to build a future we can’t envision, so we wanted to remind a broad swath of the American public that the solutions are already right in front of us. These solutions will not only address climate change but they’ll help us build a healthier, more resilient, and more equitable world. Solutions like shifting electricity production to renewables, supporting indigenous land tenure and forest protection, shifting our means of transportation away from personally-owned vehicles and internal combustion engines, remaking our cities with health, equity, and walkability in mind, addressing food waste and our diets, and so many more. Our second goal was to remind key audiences, namely policymakers and investors, that they are powerful actors in accelerating these solutions. The climate provisions in the Build Back Better Act would provide tax incentives for clean electricity, electric vehicles, clean buildings, advanced energy manufacturing, industrial decarbonization, and more, and would provide millions of good-paying jobs implementing these climate solutions. Whatever final legislative package they come in, these climate provisions have broad Congressional support and are crucial to accelerating needed investment. Our final goal of the ad was to highlight the business community’s widespread support for bold climate policy. Why lift up the business voice? Like it or not, corporations hold a lot of political power, and their support can give legislators the confidence to pass bold climate legislation. The 25 companies we invited to join this ad represent over $64 billion in revenue, employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country, and span economic sectors: energy, transportation, food, tech, manufacturing, e-commerce, entertainment, design, apparel, consumer packaged goods, banking, and financial management. Together, these businesses are sending a powerful message: every sector of the economy wants to see bold climate legislation and Congress and the White House must do their part. This moment of fleeting opportunity for meaningful action calls for us to be bold. And while it may seem unusual for a nonprofit to use their resources to run an advertisement like this, we think that new tactics are crucial to achieving bolder outcomes. As the innovation hub for Project Drawdown, Drawdown Labs exists to experiment with new tactics, especially when so much is on the line. At Project Drawdown, we have considerable access to influential actors across the global economy, and we intend to use this access and network to the fullest extent possible. We have climate solutions at our fingertips. We have key leverage points ready to be tapped. And in this critical moment, we can’t leave anything on the table. This article was originally published by MCJ Climate Voices and is being republished with permission.
December 22, 2021
Drawdown Labs year in review: accelerating the moment of drawdown
To be a business climate leader in the 21st century, doing incrementally “less harm,” relying on offsets, and making far-off emissions reductions commitments no longer make the grade. And while the U.S. Congress repeatedly fails to lead on climate, the private sector must dramatically level up its ambition and action. We need a new definition of business climate leadership, one that not only dramatically reduces emissions, but also mobilizes capital, skills, and technologies—as well political and cultural influence—to scale climate solutions, quickly, safely, and equitably in the broader world. Drawdown Labs engages businesses, investors, and philanthropies to take bolder and more expansive climate action. Below are key highlights of our 2021 work and impact. This year: We worked to make every job a climate job. We published Climate Solutions at Work, a how-to guide for employees poised to help companies take bolder climate action—encouraging every employee to find their inroad. The guide introduced a framework for the drawdown-aligned business, an ambitious new north star for the private sector. We presented this new framework to over 700 employees (across hundreds of businesses) in the last two months alone, and shared with many more via social and press (enjoy features in Fast Company and GreenBiz). We built community and shared tangible steps to grow climate engagement at work. In a collaboration with The All We Can Save Project, we launched an expanded edition of All We Can Save Circles, specifically designed to help employees foster dialogue and action around climate in their workplaces. To celebrate the launch, our organizations hosted a virtual event with 450 attendees across dozens of organizations and industries. (Join our Slack community, today!) Collaborating with our partners to develop job-specific playbooks for climate action, including a guide for marketing teams at a large tech company to integrate climate action into their jobs. We spread the word about climate solutions by: Advocating for climate action—and the private sector’s role in scaling solutions—far and wide: on CNN, The Weather Channel, and the Second Transition and Your World, Your Money podcasts. We also publicly challenged companies in various outlets, while we supported our committed business partners to accelerate their action. Facilitating crucial knowledge sharing of solutions and bringing in the experts. Our partner Google presented to the Drawdown Labs consortium on the impact of their 24/7 Carbon Free Energy (CFE) initiative, inspiring others to learn more and take related action at their own companies through the recently launched Carbon Free Energy Compact. Providing insights to dozens of philanthropies, startups, and impact investors on the most impactful climate solutions, helping build awareness of and shape strategies for—much-needed climate financing. We convened private-sector partners to help galvanize outsized impact by: Partnering with ENGIE Impact, Rare, Count Us In, and Netflix's "Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet” to collaborate on a new platform for individuals to identify the solutions that resonate most in their own lives and calculate the positive impacts those choices make. Project Drawdown’s own Chad Frischmann and Crystal Chissell also published an article on individual and household climate action, encouraging adoption of these solutions. Bringing together Intuit, Aspiration, and Copia to launch Intuit’s Climate Action Marketplace, enabling small businesses to take climate action. 75 percent of small businesses believe environmental sustainability is important to the future of the economy, and because small businesses comprise 90 percent of the global business population, Intuit’s new marketplace is harnessing a massive and untapped opportunity for collective climate action. We utilized private-sector influence to help the world achieve drawdown by: Sending a message to Congress and state legislators that the private sector supports bold climate policy. Drawdown Labs business partners signed a joint letter in support of the climate provisions in the Build Back Better Act—a crucial piece of climate legislation that passed in the House in November with the help of vocal private sector support, despite experiencing serious setbacks in the Senate this week. We also worked with our partner Allbirds to express public support for California’s Senate Bill 260, the Climate Corporate Accountability Act, which would require all U.S.-based businesses in California with over $1 billion in gross annual revenue to report their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and set science-based emissions reduction targets. In 2022, you can help expand our work to leverage the influence of the private sector and make every job a climate job. Read Climate Solutions at Work, the employee guide to the drawdown-aligned business Start a workplace-focused All We Can Save Circle Sign up for our newsletter Support the work of Project Drawdown Stay tuned for more from Drawdown Labs in the new year.
March 15, 2021
Drawdown Labs interview: Erin Meezan on the need for bold corporate climate action
The flooring industry isn’t a typical bastion of bold climate action. And Erin Meezan, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of Interface—the world’s largest carpet tile manufacturer—knows it. “It’s not Tesla,” she says. “It’s maybe not the most exciting place to save the world.” Because flooring companies aren’t usually expected to set the bar for innovation, Interface’s climate aspirations are especially compelling. Through its ambitious targets and innovative engagement strategies, Interface is setting a high climate action bar for the corporate world. Interface began its sustainability journey in 1994, far sooner than most corporations. And while many businesses publicize mediocre climate goals—like reducing “X” amount of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by “Y” date—Interface takes a new approach, moving beyond “doing less harm” to making measurable positive impacts on people and the planet. Interface’s restorative approach to climate change means eliminating its carbon footprint, but also promotes carbon removal and protection of natural carbon sinks as well as engaging employees, other businesses, and policymakers. Through its first major initiative, dubbed Mission Zero®, Interface dramatically cut impacts on the environment in its operations, raw materials, and products over a span of 25 years: globally, it cut 96% in GHG emissions, 92% of waste to landfills, and 89% of water usage per unit of production. The company charged beyond its goals faster than expected (meeting its Mission Zero targets in 2019, one year ahead of schedule), and in 2015, Interface leaders knew they were ready for the next steps in their sustainability journey. This is the moment, Meezan says, Interface chose to deliberately transform from a company looking to reduce its impact, into a place that works towards the type of future the world deserves. Their goals were framed around the Climate Take Back initiative, a plan to create a “climate fit for life” by reversing global warming, restoring the planet, and making a positive impact. Part of this plan mandates that the company has a negative carbon footprint. As a bare minimum standard, all of Interface’s products are carbon neutral. In 2020, the company went a step further with the release of a carbon negative carpet tile, a manifestation of their “climate fit for life” initiative in product form. This carpet, made from recycled content and bio-based materials, stores more carbon than it releases and proves businesses in every sector can push their goals beyond do no harm. “It's possible to offer [these types of] products worldwide...and still make money and still grow,” says Meezan. “If we can do it, our competitors can do it.” Interface understands the power of people and smart policy, and extends its climate activities to employees and other institutions. On the policy front, Interface is working to expand the Buy Clean program in California, so that government procurement of interior finishings takes into account global warming potential. Hand in hand with advocacy, Interface also works to ensure the proper tools and infrastructure are in place for a policy to be successful, like the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3). This requires constant education and awareness building for state and local governments, customers, and other stakeholders. Sometimes, Meezan says, it’s as simple as getting others to “understand the link between making a carbon commitment and how they can live up to that.” It also means collaborating with other pioneering companies to advocate for change together. In 2018, Interface co-created the Materials Carbon Action Network (materialsCAN), a group of manufacturers pushing for the consideration of embodied carbon in building projects. Inside company walls, every employee is needed to implement Interface’s mission, and so company leaders use both learning and celebration to weave climate advocacy into employees’ day-to-day lives. There are many internal learning opportunities for staff, including Carbon 101 classes that cover the basic science of climate change and give employees tools for how to communicate the importance of climate action to customers. “It’s real, deep investment that's perpetual,” Meezan says, emphasizing the need to meet each employee where they are in terms of their climate literacy and providing a suite of ways to get involved. And in fact, as Interface continues to engage its staff across all departments, it finds that employee desire to push the company beyond its goals has grown. By approaching climate change with a holistic perspective, Interface sets a corporate example for what’s possible. It shares its knowledge with others through radical transparency—an obligatory part of leading a private sector transformation. Fundamental change lies at the heart of Interface’s mission, with an understanding that meaningful action requires an open, flexible approach to business. Meezan notes that in the century following the American Revolution, businesses were originally given the right to operate because they provided benefits to their communities, and if we are to fully address the climate crisis, we need to return to this narrative in a way that mirrors the broader natural system. “Saying we're here to make money and that's our primary [goal] is not good enough anymore,” Meezan says. “We need to serve a higher purpose.” This piece is the first in an ongoing series of interviews presented by Drawdown Labs. Sign up to the Project Drawdown newsletter for future updates.