The American public agrees: corporations cannot adequately address climate issues without including racial justice

A new survey of American adults and C-suites on the role of corporations in environmental justice shows a disconnect for corporations on the connection between the environment and racial equity.

While more than 85% of American adults believe environmental justice is essential, only one-third are satisfied with the actions companies and leaders are taking now to drive change, and they expect that they do more.

Today, Interpublic Group PR agency Golin and its social impact + practice statement on inclusion justice for all — a national survey on perceptions regarding the responsibility for environmental justice in
United States. The survey found that most American adults surveyed think environmental justice is “very important” and don’t think companies have taken enough action to address the issue. Golin says the study represents a first of its kind for business leaders, communications strategists and social impact/social justice experts to help bridge the gap between saying and doing on one of the issues. most critical environmental and social challenges of our time.

For years, data has proven
the disproportionate impact of climate change and pollution on low-income and BIPOC communities. Black Americans are 75% more likely than whites to live in areas near commercial facilities that produce noise, odors, traffic, or emissions that directly affect that community. People of color are also more likely to live near refineries or toxic chemical plants, where they are exposed to higher levels of toxins that lead to higher rates of heart disease, cancer and asthma.

Golin’s study revealed a lack of conviction about who should be responsible for environmental justice within companies. Data showed that nearly half of consumers believe a company’s CEO is responsible for making environmental justice a priority. But a third of executives said they believed it was the responsibility of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability departments to handle environmental justice – followed closely by the public affairs/government relations departments .

“Despite significant scientific study on the issue, there is a lack of awareness of this issue and even less conversation between global enterprises and C-suite leaders about the role enterprises should play in mapping solutions” , said Laura Suphen, Managing Director Social Impact + Inclusion at Golin. “To date, Corporate America’s commitment to environmental justice has been lacking. We sought to understand what consumers know about environmental justice, what Americans expect from companies, and what role C-suite executives believe their brand has to play in solving the problem. When we guide C-suite leaders to marry their diversity commitments with their sustainability goals, we’ll see impact at scale that benefits communities of color and the planet.

According to the study, nearly nine in 10 executives agree that environmental justice is important to business; but 49% don’t think it would lead to tangible results for minorities or low-income communities. This discrepancy in the data shows a lack of knowledge or oversight of people affected by poor air quality, poor water quality, weak infrastructure or lack of access to food.

When asked in the survey why they don’t believe climate change and social justice are linked, comments from C-suite executives included:

“Because the environment is independent of racial injustice.”

“Because skin color is not related to environmental situations. The lack of traditional family structure and the lack of working fathers are the main culprits. These have no skin color.

“Because it shouldn’t be about race, and it literally doesn’t make sense. It’s not all about race.

“All races have low income people.”

The survey also showed that 82% of consumers surveyed think brand statements are not enough and 83% think business leaders have a responsibility to address environmental injustice.

“Environmental justice is about responsibility for solving a systemic problem that the average American doesn’t realize exists,” Sutphen said. “At Golin, our intersectional team combines social and planetary impact with inclusive communications expertise to ensure business leaders understand how the three are interconnected and impact the communities where they do business. If we’re going to help organizations achieve their goals, we have to agree that we can’t tackle climate change without tackling environmental justice.

Teresa H. Sadler