Has Earth Day ever been loaded with more urgency than now? It would seem that way, as our planet is under siege not only by climate change but by the unapologetic leader of the world’s largest economy.
And that’s why this year’s Earth Day - on April 22nd - is getting a colossal amount of attention. Company leaders, take heed: this is a historic moment to show you care about sustainability, which your employees - especially Millennials - really, really want to hear about and see in action.
Context is everything right now because it offers the basis for what has become an uprising amongst the science community and environmentalists of every stripe. The reason that this Earth Day is not like any others is because of the oppositional stance of America’s Commander in Chief. I’m sure that President Trump doesn’t go to sleep at night thinking that he’s “against” our planet, but his actions are plainly causing a grave threat to environmental progress.
For starters, he’s threatening to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the 2015 pact that has brought together 194 countries to curb global warming. Even if the U.S. remains in the agreement, as is currently being suggest by many of Trump’s top advisers, the country will certainly not meet the pollution-reduction targets committed to by former President Obama.
President Trump’s appointment for the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is a climate change skeptic ready to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, a set of EPA regulations designed to address the country’s primary source of greenhouse emissions by closing hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired power plants. Funding for states to eliminate deadly diesel pollution is being slashed, as is enforcement for environmental laws that have improved our air and water over the past 50 years. Funding for the EPA overall is being cut by 31%, with over a quarter of the workforce and programs eliminated. Even the term “climate change” is being banned at the office of the Department of Energy.
Alarmingly, the list goes on and on. In its first 100 days, the Trump Administration has been ruthlessly effective in at least one thing: destroying or threatening much of the progress made over years of hard work by the environmental movement.
Given these threats, Earth Day 2017 is shaping up to be an extraordinary occasion. Rather than the typical celebration, which has become the largest civic observance in the world - attracting 1 billion participants every year, this year’s Earth Day will be even bigger, because it will be combined with a global March for Science. Four hundred events across 37 countries are being planned to send a message of support for science, including a massive march in Washington D.C.
Scientists are usually quiet when it comes to their politics; after all, science itself is nonpartisan. But the aggressive actions by the Trump Administration to dismantle environmental progress has galvanized leading scientists to speak out and affirm the facts around climate change and other scientific truths. The March for Science is a remarkable act of resistance by an industry that feels compelled to defend its vital importance to the world.
But scientists aren’t alone in stepping up. Many of the world’s most influential companies are doubling down on - not retreating from - sustainability. Some, for example, are continuing with RE100, a commitment to 100% renewable power. This was a pledge made in 2014 as a part of a coalition to massively increase the demand for and delivery of renewable energy. Since RE100 was launched at Climate Week NYC 2014, the campaign has continued to gather momentum and is now being rolled out in India and China in addition to Europe and the US.
Every company can’t make a commitment at that level, but all companies can demonstrate their values by engaging employees in Earth Day activities that get everyone involved in pro-planet volunteering.
For example, Causecast client New Relic is running a general Earth Day campaign encouraging employees to use their paid time off to volunteer with outdoor opportunities. Providence Health, another Causecast client, is encouraging participation through a few different opportunities: taking the Energy Start pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions; learning how you can reduce your carbon footprint; or volunteering outdoors. And Causecast client Henderson Engineers is taking the whole month of April to focus on encouraging employees to recycle, reduce and reuse, including by donating gently used books and supplies to organizations that then pass them on to schools.
Your employees - especially Millennials - want to support Earth Day. Show your solidarity with the Earth Day movement and help your employees get involved. The Earth Day site offers a large menu of opportunities for companies and individuals, so check out these areas where you can help employees learn and act: