May 2020 | Corporations' Impact on Climate Change

Can corporations play nice with others? (Spoiler: lol no)

In this post, we read, listen, act, and reflect on May's topic: corporations and sustainability. This article has been adapted from our sustainability newsletter, so please sign up for it to stay in the loop.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

What’s covered:

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Read: Trash talk time

Corporations waste a lot because it keeps costs low (for them). If you're feeling a little stir-crazy, I'm right here to talk trash about these companies with you!

I'm focusing on greenhouse gases (GHGs) and plastic, because reducing GHGs is so key to fighting climate change and minimizing plastic can offset irreversible damage to humans and animals.

Greenhouse gas emissions (click me to learn more)

Plastic waste (read me if you can't get enough)

Some good news (not like the Youtube show)

Seriously, if you haven't seen #SGN by John Krasinski yet (Jim from The Office), watch it. My favorite episode has the Hamilton cast joining in as a surprise.

Here are the top three things that make me optimistic about our systemic change battle:

  1. Energy - Zillennials ages 18-38 are all about that alternative energy - 78% of us believe that it should be a priority over fossil fuel production. (Pew Research)
  2. Fashion - The millennial and Gen Z adoption of secondhand clothing is 2.5x that of previous generations AND resale is expected to outpace fast fashion by 1.5x before 2030! Our demand is driving companies like ThredUp and Reformation. (Our November Changeletter)
  3. Purpose over profit - 68% of millennials want to make a positive difference in the world, and many believe their employers' values should match their own. You know what this means - we're truly #influencing corporations to put purpose at par with profit. (Forbes)

Listen: How Corporations Trash Us & The Story of Bottled Water

Today, I'm sharing a brilliant YouTube video called "The Story of Bottled Water." It's by The Story of Stuff Project. Click the thumbnail to watch!

I LOVE this video because it's well-narrated, has super fun animations, AND includes actions you can take at the end that go beyond only drinking tap water. I really, really love the simple explanation on how corporations play us, using bottled water as an example.

Here are five highlights:

Act: Easy peasy ways to take down the bad guy

I've assembled THREE ways you can make a difference via the corporate route - I mean this whether or not you actually work for a corporation.

I've ordered these changes from easy to hard and you can do them whether you work for yourself or whether, like me, you consult for a 500,000 person organization!

  1. EASY - Tell IT to make Ecosia your default search engine. You can even just tell your team. is a browser extension that plants trees where they're needed the most. Their financials are transparent, their servers run on 100% renewable energy, and they don't sell your data to advertisers. You're already searching - now, you can do it better.

    If you work for a small or mid-sized company, you can get EVERYONE on Ecosia by shooting an email to HR or IT. If you work for a massive corporation, share it on your internal feed and get your teammates on it! The corporation I work for has a "Social Innovators" channel with 2,000+ members - I'm sharing Ecosia there.

  2. MEDIUM (but in my opinion, the most important) - Know your supply. According to CDP, the organization that tackles environmental risks throughout the supply chain, "for the average company, the environmental impact of your supply chain is many times that of your own operations." Get your company to understand its supply chain and where they can reduce emissions - the impacts of a more renewable supply chain are HUGE. Just send this link to whoever is in charge of sustainability at your company.

    (Hint: if you're at a teeny company, that could be you. If you're at a larger company, you can contact your corporate social responsibility colleague(s) and use this email I drafted for you. All you have to do is fill out the contact and hit send.)

  3. HIGH - Get your building on renewable energy. I'm going to modify this one for something I've actually done: through a massive corporate goose chase, I learned we had a Director of Sustainability. He told me a LOT about our renewable energy efforts and how our corporation is actually doing well when it comes to carbon neutrality.

    Another easy modification to get started is to read about different types of building renewable power here via Sunpower and forward this link to your building manager.

Reflect: Are clouds green?

School might be out, but I've got a report card for you! WIRED put together a report of which company has the greenest cloud.

Q: Why is this important?

A: When your data gets stored on the cloud, it doesn't just evaporate. It lives in physical data centers. "According to the Department of Energy, data centers account for about 2 percent of all electricity use in the US." It's a big chunk!

Q: What makes a cloud green?

A: Algae water. Just kidding. "The efficiency of a data center's infrastructure (lights, cooling, and so on), the efficiency of its servers, and the source of its electricity" are three metrics to assess how "green" a cloud is.

Q: What's the good news???
In 2017, Google announced "it achieved 100 percent renewable energy across all of its operations, including its data centers"! Microsoft has increased its renewable energy portfolio by ~60% over the past year!

Q: What's the bad news?

A: Well, Amazon. (They got an "F" for transparency on their report card.) Also, Google and Microsoft are BOTH courting the fossil fuel industry. Do they know they... don't need to do that?

Retweet by clicking on the post below.

That's a wrap! My final action tip: do your best to "divest" from Amazon - whether that's convincing your employer to stop using AWS, canceling your Prime membership (which I ashamedly still must do), not shopping at Whole Foods, or simply ordering less from Amazon - it goes a long way for the environment, for being an anti-racist ally, and for justice.

Read the cloud article before you proceed on your way today, and if you want to check how sustainable your company is, try searching it on CSRHub.