Action Guide

Integrate Environmental and Climate Justice Considerations

Environmental Defense Fund

The concept of climate justice acknowledges that vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by climate change and that it is a social justice issue. Climate justice is a dynamic and time-oriented process that requires us to consider the impacts of our actions not only in the present but also for future generations. It is important to incorporate environmental and climate justice considerations into all climate-related work to avoid worsening existing inequalities and to ensure that our transition to clean energy is equitable and just.

Climate justice recognizes that climate change is a social justice issue that disproportionately affects vulnerable populations. Therefore, integrating environmental and climate justice considerations in all climate work is crucial to prevent exacerbating existing inequalities. This requires prioritizing community engagement and inclusive decision-making processes. Ultimately, implementing these best practices promotes a sustainable future for all communities, generates shared value, advances corporate responsibility, and stimulates local economies. For companies, addressing their entire operational life cycle within its environmental and social context mitigates long term risks that can disrupt business and produces more successful, durable climate solutions by targeting root issues. 

Embedding Justice Into Your Climate Work 

Integrating environmental and climate justice considerations in all climate work is crucial to ensure a fair and just transition to a low-carbon economy and sustainable future. This requires prioritizing community engagement and inclusive decision-making processes that give a voice to all communities, especially those most affected by climate change. We must recognize that the impacts of climate change and the solutions to address it are not distributed equally. Therefore, we must prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable communities and ensure that they have access to the resources and support they need to adapt to the changing climate.  

By actively collaborating with these communities, your company can better understand their needs and develop solutions that are tailored to their unique circumstances. It is also important to build trust and long-term relationships with these communities and ensure that they have a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making. 

Here are some considerations for embedding justice into your work on climate: 

  1. Conduct a climate justice impact assessment: Before embarking on any climate-related work, it’s crucial to assess the potential impact on different communities, particularly those that are most vulnerable to climate change. This assessment should examine how the proposed project or policy might affect people’s health, livelihoods, and access to resources, such as clean air and water. It should also consider how the project or policy might disproportionately affect marginalized communities, including but not limited to low-income households, communities of color, and rural communities/villages. 
  1. Engage with affected communities: To truly understand the impact of climate change and the necessary solutions, it’s essential to engage with those who are most affected by it. This includes consulting with community leaders, organizers, and advocates, as well as impacted community members themselves. This engagement should happen throughout all stages of the climate work, from planning to implementation and monitoring. 
  1. Consider equity and climate justice implications: As you develop climate-related policies and programs, it’s important to consider the equity implications of your decisions. For example, if you’re considering promoting clean energy, ask yourself if the policy or program will benefit everyone equally or if it might further exacerbate existing inequalities via procurement or siting of these projects. This requires thinking beyond just reducing carbon emissions to consider how different populations will be affected by the proposed actions. 
  1. Develop inclusive decision-making processes: When it comes to climate work, it’s important to ensure that all stakeholders have a say in the decision-making process. This can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions that are more likely to be accepted and supported by the broader community. This means creating inclusive forums for discussion and decision-making that bring together a range of perspectives, including those of frontline communities and people with lived experience of the impacts of climate change. Inclusive processes ensure everyone has a say in shaping climate policies and programs that affect their lives. See the action step entitled “Authentically engage with communities” for more details.  
  1. Prioritize accountability and transparency: Finally, it’s important to prioritize accountability and transparency in all climate-related work. This means creating mechanisms for tracking progress and ensuring that climate policies and programs are meeting their intended goals via publicly reporting on key climate justice metrics on a regular basis (quarterly, annually, etc.), also ensuring accountability. It also means being transparent about decision-making processes and the criteria used to make decisions. This creates trust and ensures that communities are informed and engaged in climate work at every stage.