Environmental Justice and its close companion Climate Justice have increasingly gained a spotlight in the media. What is Environmental Justice? This video by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), while US-based, is a good overview. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EnvironmentalJustice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
When you’re ready to explore current issues on a global level, The Environmental Justice Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to helping underserved communities and protecting the planet. They explore the detriment of global manufacturing and consumption through reporting and donation campaigns. It’s a great place to learn more about what’s happening in the space outside of your local region.
For a recent example, take a look at this article from ProPublica that talks about how Black residents in southeastern Louisiana bear a disproportionate cancer risk from industrial air pollution with children at one predominantly Black elementary school having been exposed to a dangerous carcinogen at levels 11 times what the EPA considers acceptable. It discusses a letter from the EPA that urged state agencies to analyze cumulative impacts for residents near a synthetic rubber plant. Sounds great, right? However, local activists have fought for environmental protections for decades in this area with little success. This quote from Monique Harden, Assistant Director of Law and Public Policy at the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, sums up the frustration people from these communities have with regulators and their own ability to make polluters accountable for their actions:
“What’s remarkable is that the EPA, for the first time in a long time, is speaking the truth around environmental racism and willing to put civil rights enforcement tools out there.”
The article goes on to discuss that even though the EPA has finally gotten involved, it will take months of negotiation with local health and environmental agencies to come to acceptable terms.
As a business, you can start advancing Climate Justice in your own operations, supply chain, and local communities. The B Corp Climate Collective has a guidebook to help business leaders understand the intersection of climate action and social justice, and advance a justice-centered approach to sustainability efforts in their own work. The guide offers real-world examples, business-to-business advice, and human stories.
It provides key insights and answers questions about Environmental Justice and discusses, through case studies, how businesses like Patagonia and Seventh Generation have addressed issues within their own companies. It’s a great resource to help design an awareness campaign and talk about current events within your own operation.
Finally, for more in-depth videos about issues in environmental justice, the Global Environmental Justice Observatory by the University of California, Santa Cruz has curated films, documentaries, and short news reports that explore issues from around the world. The films cover a variety of issues ranging from toxic air emissions, water contamination, nuclear waste, to issues of “natural” hazards.