Can climate change action lead to better inclusion?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Cindy Hook, Chief Executive Officer, Asia-Pacific, Deloitte

  • The climate transition will affect the lives of billions of people. The most economically and socially marginalized are likely to be the most impacted.
  • There is huge potential – and a huge responsibility – to address underlying social inequalities as companies address climate change.
  • Organizations should consider who is making decisions, what their end goals are and whether their transformations will help or hinder equity and inclusion.

From Beijing to London, Stockholm to Tokyo and Paris to Seoul, government and business leaders are responding to climate change by making momentous decisions that will transform their business strategies and practices. As leaders seek to address the issues of climate change, this is the time to take a holistic view that also considers diversity and inclusion principles.

There are compelling reasons to make the link between these significant but traditionally separate areas of debate. Considering climate change, diversity and inclusion together can lead to better decision-making and improve outcomes for marginalized groups. It also recognizes that there is an opportunity to address more than the climate as organizations and business practices are fundamentally reinvented.

Making better decisions

Tackling climate change may be the most complex challenge CEOs face this century. We also know organizations are often most effective at resolving such challenges and delivering breakthrough solutions when their problem-solving process includes a diverse range of views and voices. The solutions they arrive at are also more likely to cater to – and be well received by – a wider range of stakeholders.

Deloitte discussed these themes in The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution in 2018. There have also been many well-regarded articles published discussing the value of diversity in decision-making.

An example is Why Diverse Teams are Smarter by David Rock and Heidi Grant in the Harvard Business Review, which said: “Striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan — it is a good business decision”.

Rock and Grant also cited global analysis by Credit Suisse showing that organizations with at least one female board member delivered a higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those with male-only boards.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent social and political unrest have created a profound sense of urgency for companies to actively work to tackle inequity.

The Forum’s work on Diversity, Equality, Inclusion and Social Justice is driven by the New Economy and Society Platform, which is focused on building prosperous, inclusive and just economies and societies. In addition to its work on economic growth, revival and transformation, work, wages and job creation, and education, skills and learning, the Platform takes an integrated and holistic approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, and aims to tackle exclusion, bias and discrimination related to race, gender, ability, sexual orientation and all other forms of human diversity.

The Platform produces data, standards and insights, such as the Global Gender Gap Report and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkit, and drives or supports action initiatives, such as Partnering for Racial Justice in Business, The Valuable 500 – Closing the Disability Inclusion Gap, Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work, Closing the Gender Gap Country Accelerators, the Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality, the Community of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers and the Global Future Council on Equity and Social Justice.

Easing the burden

The climate crisis is disproportionately impacting those who are already economically and socially marginalized, particularly in Asia.

Half of the population in Asia, where I am based, live in low-lying coastal areas, making them particularly vulnerable to storms and inundation. This amounts to 2.4 billion people in a region where43,000 people a year already die in storms, floods and landslides.

The United Nations has also estimated that 80% of people displaced by climate change are women – showing how climate change can exacerbate inequality among groups that are already more likely to experience poverty.

Despite this disproportionate impact, the average representation of women in national and global climate negotiating bodies is below 30%.

Women’s voices are also underrepresented in the boardroom. Deloitte hasfound that only 16.9% of corporate board seats globally were held by women in 2019. The figure was just 9.3% in Asia, further highlighting the need for women to have greater representation in climate decision-making.

Developing solutions to address climate change with a diversity and inclusion mindset offers the potential to more effectively solve both business and societal issues. This more holistic approach to climate action is being discussed in policy spheres, including at the World Economic Forum, in terms of a “just transition”. Such a transition to a lower-carbon future also considers social and economic implications.

These principles are also embedded in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which asks parties to consider diversity and inclusion by stating that they should:

“… respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity.”

— Paris Agreement

Embracing the opportunity

The scale of the change needed to address the climate crisis requires a departure from “business as usual”. Government and business leaders have a unique opportunity – and a responsibility – to build back better as they create a more climate-resilient future.

As Rahm Emanuel, then Chief of Staff to US President Barack Obama, toldThe Wall Street Journal during the global financial crisis: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

More and more governments and businesses are announcing ambitious plans to address climate change and to move towards net-zero or even negative carbon emissions. The leaders of China, Denmark, France, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom have all made significant, time-bound commitments to reach net-zero emissions – meaning a balance between the emissions they produce and remove from the atmosphere.

Encouragingly, a number of these plans incorporate “just transition” principles to ensure fairness and equity are considered. The European Green Deal, for example, sets out plans for a climate-neutral and zero-pollution transformation while aiming for a just transition that “leaves no one behind”. South Korea has announced similar aspirations in its Green New Deal.

These announcements are inspiring leading businesses to follow suit, and in many cases, to move faster than governments. Global organizations including BHP, Shell, Tata and Unilever have announced a range ofdecarbonization and net-zero plans.

Deloitte has also made anet-zero commitment that will affect the firm’s geographies globally, which is an important principle in climate responses.

To succeed, these commitments will require the large-scale transformation of industries and societies. As boards, executive teams and individuals gather to turn net zero into reality, there is a huge opportunity to improve society along with the climate. One of the first steps to integrating climate, diversity and inclusion is ensuring a wide range of voices are heard.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Bertelsmann Stiftung @ European Business Summit 2014: Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TTIP) needs balanced approach

Blue bonds: What they are, and how they can help the oceans

Nearly two million Cameroonians face humanitarian emergency: UNICEF

Greece leaves EU aid program, gets last 15 billion euro

Improving coverage of mental health services

On eve of Gaza border protest anniversary, UN’s top humanitarian official for Palestine calls for calm

OECD: Rising employment overshadowed by unprecedented wage stagnation

What the car industry has done to help fight climate change – and what it needs to do next

In Tanzania visit, UNHCR official stresses freedom of choice is crucial for refugee returns

Mental health and suicide: when the alarm bells are faced with deaf ears

Hundreds of thousands migrants ready to cross the Mediterranean. Only a local matter?

How we can build our way out of the crisis

UN calls for funds to ease ‘deteriorating’ humanitarian situation in Gaza and West Bank

Eurozone business activity again on upwards path

ECB settles the bank resolution issue, makes banking union tangible

The European Youth raises their voices this week in Brussels at Yo!Fest 2015

Sustainable Infrastructure and Connectivity in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): a stimulating China-EU dialogue at European Business Summit 2018

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Changing the Face of Europe

EU labour mobility: Inconvenient truths for everybody

Venezuela: Competing US, Russia resolutions fail to pass in Security Council

Can We(esterners) ever understand (the) Chinese

This new initiative aims to make cybercrime harder – and riskier – to commit

Mobile health technology: Advances, Facilitations and Promotion of Autonomy

This man is sleeping out in the Davos cold to make a point about homelessness

The European Parliament floating over the South China Sea

This Kenyan company makes fuel from human poo

ECB with an iron hand disciplines the smaller Eurozone member states; latest victim: Greece

June infringements package: key decisions

MWC 2016 LIVE: Ericsson/Cisco partnership on track, insist execs

Launch of Pact for Youth: European Youth Forum calls for real business engagement

Protect women’s rights ‘before, during and after conflict’ UN chief tells high-level Security Council debate

How COVID-19 is making companies act for the long term

More women than ever are working in Hollywood, but men still dominate key roles

Libya: Heavy shelling and civilian deaths ‘blatant violation’ of international law – UN envoy

How each country’s share of global CO2 emissions changes over time

Spanish and Polish voters are crying out for an imminent European change while US urge now Germany to change route

Tax havens cost governments $200 billion a year. It’s time to change the way global tax works

The mental domain in times of a pandemic

COVID-19: Commission launches European team of scientific experts to strengthen EU coordination and medical response

‘Deeply concerned.’ WHO officials stress the need for continued vigilance – WHO briefing

6 things to know about coronavirus today, 1 April

Dangers of poor quality health care revealed ‘in all countries’: WHO report

EU strengthens cooperation with Ethiopia

Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May at last week’s EU Council. Source: EC Audiovisual Services / Copyright: European Union, 2017 / Photo: Etienne Ansotte

EU leaders open “Phase Two” of Brexit talks and warn Theresa May of tougher times

Circular Plastics Alliance: 100+ signatories commit to use 10 million tons of recycled plastic in new products by 2025

EU Commission says falling labour remuneration leads to deflation and damages growth prospects

The US and EU decisively oppose Erdogan’s plans for Turkey and beyond

JADE Spring Meeting Live Coverage: Entrepreneurial skills in the digital markets

UN working with both sides, after hidden tunnels confirmed along Lebanon-Israel ‘Blue Line’

MEPs propose measures to combat mobbing and sexual harassment

EU-UK relations: MEPs approve rules to ensure Eurotunnel safety and cooperation

UN cultural agency removes birthplace of Jesus from its list of heritage sites in danger

Achieving a European Education Area by 2025 and resetting education and training for the digital age

European Youth Capital 2018 : Cascais

This chart shows the fall in coal-power plants being planned around the world

UN agency ramps up effort to counter growing nuclear threat from cyberspace


A Sting Exclusive: “Education in Europe, fostering skills development inside and outside the school system”

State aid: Commission approves €500 million Greek scheme to support the self-employed affected by coronavirus outbreak

IMF’s Lagarde: Ukraine must fight corruption

MEPs approve boost to workers’ rights in the gig economy

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s