26 November, 2021
A recent article in The New Yorker draws attention to the precarious employment conditions suffered by workers who clean up after natural disasters. This work is increasingly essential to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. However, the lack of industry-wide standards for disaster work, coupled with the frequent use of sub-contractors and undocumented migrant workers, means that accountability is sorely lacking in the field’s supply chain.
This thoughtful and moving article gave us insight into one of the very real ways in which climate change and inequality are inextricably interlinked.
It also led us to reflect on the ‘just transition’, which draws attention to the workers whose livelihoods may be challenged as we transition away from carbon-intensive industries. However, we think another key aspect of the ‘just transition’ involves supporting and protecting the new companies, jobs and workers that will emerge as we adapt to the realities of climate change.
Focusing on the interconnection of climate change and inequality can also help companies to be more resilient and responsible. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their value chain they must also manage the impact they have on society and communities, including thinking through the social consequences of action they take to reduce their environmental impact.
While the acronym ESG suggests that ‘environmental’ and ‘social’ can be treated as separate categories, it is increasingly clear that in many ways they are two sides of the same coin.
By Miriam Shovel