Yes, You Can Take Climate Action Without Leaving Your Regular Job. Here’s How

The actions we must take to address the climate crisis are no secret. The global community of researchers, climate activists, and sustainability professionals know most, if not all, of the climate solutions that could slow down or even stop the increasing amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Multiple organizations have pulled together lists detailing what could and should be done.  The challenge is execution. How do you implement climate solutions across the global business economy? How do you do so with the short time we have to address the climate crisis? And who exactly will do this work? Not all of us can quit our jobs to work exclusively on climate

Harnessing employee energy for climate solutions

Enter Project Drawdown and its initiatives to accelerate the adoption of climate solutions through collaborations with the private sector via its Drawdown Labs program. We met with Drawdown Labs Senior Associate Aiyana Bodi to discuss the program’s latest project, the Job Function Action Guides. Aiyana focuses on employee engagement in sustainability activities across all industries. According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 3.47 billion people are now in the global labor force. However, only a small percentage work in sustainability roles or for climate-focused organizations. Getting more people to work on climate solutions is a mission Project Drawdown and Work on Climate share.

According to Aiyana, Drawdown Labs wanted to enable more employees, especially entry- to mid-level employees in the private sector, to take action on climate solutions through their current roles. “At Project Drawdown and Drawdown Labs, we believe we have everything we need today. And it’s just a matter of harnessing it and being strategic about how we use that energy.”

Climate-specific actions for common functional roles

The Drawdown Labs team saw an opportunity to help some employees understand how to integrate climate into their roles and show them how they can be internal climate advocates at their companies. The commonality of certain functions in business means harnessing these roles for climate action could have a significant impact. Millions of employees work in finance departments, marketing teams, or sales groups across every industry in the private sector. The Drawdown Labs team discovered that these employees often want to take action on climate issues but need detailed suggestions on which climate actions might fit into their role’s usual activities. The Drawdown team selected Finance, Government Relations and Public Policy, Human Resources and Operations, Legal, Marketing, Procurement, and Sales and Client-Facing Roles for the first round of the action guides. “One thing that surprised me is how much these roles – roles that some people might think are unrelated to climate change – can actually do to help accelerate climate solutions,” Aiyana said. “Once you start to think more deeply about those connections, that’s surprising and awesome to see how many connections there are.”

Driven by the vision of Drawdown Labs Director Jamie Beck Alexander and supported by the business partners managed by Senior Associate Julian Kraus-Polk, Aiyana steered the guides through extensive research, writing, and reviews. She compiled internal expertise and conducted in-depth interviews of employees who work in these roles and are already taking action on climate. While the inaugural group of roles covered by the action guides is broad, Aiyana said she hopes this wide range captures as many people as possible who can then customize the guides for their position, team, and company. “Employees have much more inherent power than they think, especially when they come together. People coming together can push further within their companies on climate.”  

Future iterations may include use cases and incorporate feedback from employees living these responsibilities day-to-day, as well as guides for different roles like product management or design. “One of the lessons we learned is that people who think that they can’t take climate action in their current role, you can,” she said.

A “menu of leverage” for companies

While the Job Function Action Guides are helpful at the individual or team level, they are part of a broader initiative for companies at Project Drawdown: the Drawdown-Aligned Business Framework. Aiyana characterized the framework as “a menu of leverage that companies have.”  It includes emissions reductions, business model transformation, and climate policy advocacy, among other aspects. “Moving through the end of this year into next year, we hope to make specific metrics for that framework. We have eight aspects that we outline, and for each of those eight leverage points, we have recommended actions that companies can take,” Aiyana said.

With the belief that we’re in a critical decade for climate action, the team is excited to get the guides and the framework out into the private sector and inspire people to take action.  “We’re living in an interesting time where most people care about climate change. And at the same time, one thing that’s been spurred by COVID is that people are rethinking the nature of work and what it means to them. Especially when you look at surveys from young people, they want meaning from their day jobs, jobs that are more values-aligned,” she said. “With these action guides and the business framework, we’re saying there’s this interesting opportunity to bring more meaning into your work, which is also good for business.”

You can find out more about Project Drawdown, their Job Function Action Guides, and the Drawdown-Aligned Business Framework on their website. Aiyana Bodi is a Senior Associate at Project Drawdown. She is based in Brooklyn, New York, and talked to us from the unceded homeland of the Lenape people.

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