The Urgency of Climate Change
The past few weeks have been both historic and heartbreaking for those of us living on the U.S. West Coast. Historic wildfires raged through California, Oregon and Washington, putting lives in danger, destroying towns and millions of acres of forest, and blanketing our cities with smoke. Our people and clients in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle bore the brunt of the dangerous air quality, and it was painful to see the aftereffects, such as pictures of the town of Malden, Washington, which completely burned to the ground. Where I live just outside Seattle, we were urged to stay indoors for over a week to avoid breathing the unhealthy air; during the worst of it, spending a day outdoors in the Puget Sound region was equivalent to smoking nine cigarettes.
And yet, I recognize it is a privilege to be able to stay safe indoors. I am grateful to be in a position where I can avoid smoke and move away from immediate danger — and encourage all our people to stay safe as well. I’m keenly aware that privilege is not one we all share. But it underscores just how crucial purpose-driven leadership has become.
For me, operating with purpose means staying true to our foundational priorities. This year, we have been confronted with a global pandemic, economic recession and a long-overdue renewed fight against systemic racism — all of which are top of mind for me. At the same time, we cannot ignore what science proves and what the past month has made real: The climate crisis is more pressing than ever. It is in these critical moments that the resilience of our purpose is tested — and it becomes imperative that we stay true to our guiding principles, no matter how difficult.
I wrote in April that brands can do three things now to respond to the urgency of climate change: Listen to the science, invest in sustainability innovations and speak out. The impact is not only real, it has a ripple effect on economic inequality, racial injustice and global health, all key issues that have come to the fore this year.
As a brand, are you taking steps to respond to the climate crisis? The house is still — most definitely — on fire.
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