Equity and inclusion must be prioritised in sustainability training

Joshua Haywood, US and UK Launcher at AXA Climate School provides guidance on the use of equity in sustainability L&D
Joshua Haywood
A meeting

Most organisations now publish sustainability goals, and many also provide sustainability training to employees. But there's a significant omission in much of the training – the role of social equity. 

“We are all in the same boat” is one of the biggest myths around the climate crisis. Climate risks disproportionately impact different communities, and taking climate action is not just about the environment. It is a social issue that must be considered when we address climate issues. Climate change intensifies existing inequalities and leads to increased vulnerability, poverty, food insecurity, and even political instability.

It’s also a moral issue. Some communities are more exposed and vulnerable than others and often don’t have the same means to act. For sustainability training to be effective and make a difference in attitudes, it must better reflect equity and inclusion. 

Global inequalities

Climate change affects regions of the world in different ways. An increase in the average global temperature, for example, does not have the same effect everywhere. Flooding has a massive impact on some countries - in Bangladesh, one-fifth of the country's land area could be swallowed up by rising water levels by 2050, with up to 20 million Bangladeshis potentially having to leave their homes.

In the Netherlands, it has been estimated that up to 60% of the country could be flooded. Yet the limited resources of developing countries make it harder to address climate hazards effectively. Bangladesh and the Netherlands are both exposed to rising water levels but have vastly differing means of responding.

Within most countries, poorer people are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. For example, in flood-prone areas, housing is usually less expensive and more affordable to poorer people. 

Taking responsibility for climate change

Clearly, some countries are more at risk from climate change than others. And yet, there is further injustice. The countries most vulnerable to climate change are not those that emit the most greenhouse gases. 

They suffer the consequences of climate disruption that others are more responsible for. For example, the average carbon footprint of a Bangladeshi is estimated at 0.6 tons of CO2 per year. It is six for the average European and 15 for an American.

In response to this inequality, the concept of climate justice has emerged, recognising the existence of these climate injustices and trying to correct them as much as possible. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that changing our behaviors and lifestyles could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70%.

Introducing equity in sustainability training

It's never been more important for organisations to address equity in their sustainability training. Here is how best to go about it:

  1. Develop comprehensive training programmes: Companies should create training programs that incorporate the concept of climate equity, addressing the unequal impacts of climate change on various stakeholders.
  2. Use real-life examples: Incorporate real-world case studies and examples to demonstrate the practical implications of climate inequalities, helping employees understand the issue in context.
  3. Highlight the role of historical responsibility: Emphasise the historical responsibility of developed countries for climate change and the need for equitable actions to mitigate its effects.
  4. Promote climate justice: Discuss the concept of climate justice and how companies can contribute to a fair transition that benefits both the environment and vulnerable communities.
  5. Encourage employee engagement: Encourage employees to take action at both individual and collective levels to reduce carbon footprints and support initiatives that address climate inequalities.
  6. Address intersectionality: Recognise that climate inequalities intersect with other forms of inequality, such as age, gender, health, ethnicity, disability, and education level. Trainers should consider these intersecting factors in their discussions.
  7. Advocate for fair transition: Companies should be aware of the potential consequences of climate policies and advocate for fair transitions, particularly in regions or industries where jobs and livelihoods depend on fossil fuel-related activities.

By incorporating these recommendations into their training programs, companies can both raise awareness and take concrete steps to address climate inequalities and promote climate justice within the organisation.

Written by
Joshua Haywood
Written by
December 20, 2023