Extreme temperatures, floods, and tornadoes occurring where they normally do not; microplastics being measured in our bodies at levels which we cannot deny. We are at a crisis moment with climate change, with impacts that are undeniable.
But we cannot address climate change if we are also not going to address environmental justice.
Environmental justice has been studied from a scientific perspective for decades, and there is indisputable evidence and data that proves its presence and negative impact in communities across America. It is not conjecture. It is a point in fact.
For years, data has proven the disproportionate impact of climate change and pollution on low-income and BIPOC communities. Black Americans are 75% more likely than white people to live in areas near commercial facilities that produce noise, odor, traffic or emissions that directly affect that community. It’s also more likely that people of color live near toxic refineries or chemical plants, where they experience higher levels of exposure to toxins that result in higher rates of heart disease, cancer and asthma.
For all the scientific studies on environmental justice, there is still a lack of awareness of this issue, and even less conversation among global corporates and C-suite leaders around the role business plays in charting solutions. To date, corporate America’s commitment to environmental justice has been tepid to non-existent.
Golin’s Social Impact + Inclusion practice set out to understand the role of businesses to address environmental justice and how much consumers even knew about the issue.
Golin, through Dynata, conducted primary research to expose the lack of awareness and responsibility that corporations and business leaders had for environmental justice. They fielded two surveys between May 23 and June 10, 2022, sampling 1,537 adults from the general public, ages 16 and older, and 150 C-suite executives across the U.S.
This study was a first-ever led by a communications agency. Not only was it designed to address the gap in the landscape, but it set out to educate leaders on how they could connect their racial justice commitments to their sustainability goals to advance real progress.
The survey, titled, “JUSTICE FOR ALL,” studied perceptions of environmental justice and probed respondents to express what they thought the responsibility of businesses and its leaders should be. Golin wanted to know what Americans thought about environmental justice. Did they understand it? Did they believe in it? How important did they feel it was for companies and brands to address it as a business issue? Furthermore – inside of a company, who did they think was responsible for leading work that supports this important topic? The Golin team also wanted to know what C-suite executives knew about environmental justice, and if they believed their brand had a role to play in addressing environmental justice issues. And if not – why?
In September 2022, Golin’s Social Impact + Inclusion practice launched the agency’s top thought leadership of the year with the JUSTICE FOR ALL survey results. Golin’s leaders conducted a road show with their results, first to internal stakeholders and then to clients and the wider industry. They also launched a multi-tiered rollout plan that included an earned media strategy across PR trades and business media, custom content for Golin’s owned and social channels and speaking engagements for the practice’s top subject matter experts. In short, Golin had the entire industry talking about the importance of environmental justice.
Golin’s study found a belief gap in who should be responsible for addressing environmental justice inside of corporations. The data showed that nearly half of consumers believe that a company’s CEO is responsible for making environmental justice a priority. But only one-third of executives reported that they think it’s the responsibility of environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability departments to handle environmental justice, followed closely by public affairs/government relations departments.
Additional results showed that:
While more than 85% of Americans believe that environmental justice is critical, only one third of them are satisfied with current actions taken by companies and C-suite leaders to advance change, and they expect them to do more.
9 out of 10 executives agree environmental justice is important for corporations to address, but 49% don’t think it would lead to tangible outcomes for minorities or low-income communities
82% of consumers believe statements are not enough from brands and that 83% think corporate leaders have a responsibility to address environmental injustice
The JUSTICE FOR ALL study generated media coverage across national business publications (Business Insider, Authority Magazine), sustainability trade press (Sustainable Brands, Climate Concern), and across PR trades (PR Week, PRovoke Media). It was also listed in the top 10 for thought leadership by PRovoke Media for 2022. In addition, Golin’s Social Impact + Inclusion Managing Director, Laura Sutphen, was invited to speak at key conferences including Sustainable Brands flagship conference, Sustainable Brands annual conference in Turkey, IPRA Webinar and Ad NetZero.