Advancing Net-Zero Goals to Achieve Environmental Justice

In the Summer 2023 edition of the American Bar Association's Natural Resources & Environment publication, Associates Hilary Jacobs (Washington, DC) and Kirstin Gruver (Seattle) authored an article on environmental justice and advancing net zero goals

The last two years have seen unprecedented levels of federal and state activity aimed at addressing historical environmental injustices prevalent in the United States. While the concept of environmental justice (EJ) as a national policy priority may seem relatively new, the recent activity is the result of decades of work by trailblazing community leaders and advocates, dating back to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines EJ as “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.” EPA, Environmental Justice

At the same time, over the last two years, corporate stakeholders—everyone from investors to customers and employees—have continued to demand measurable progress from environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs. Traditionally, ESG efforts have revolved around readily quantifiable data for environmental, social, and governance factors. On the “E” side, this has translated to measuring and setting corresponding goals and targets for sustainability metrics such as climate and greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy procurement, among other things. The goal of reaching net-zero emissions—adding no more greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere than the amount being taken out of the atmosphere—has become a common “E” goal. The “S” framework tends to focus on tracking corporate performance in issues of pay equity; health and safety; diversity, equity, and inclusion; human rights; and responsible sourcing. Recently, there have been increasingly frequent calls to bring corporate environmental justice performance into the “S” fold as well. 

This article explores the relationship and intersection of these environmental justice, ESG, and net-zero goals, and provides concrete recommendations for companies working to understand how ESG and EJ programs and policies fit together.

Click here to read the full article.

Published in Natural Resources & Environment Volume 38, Number 1, Summer 2023. © 2023 by the American Bar Association or the copyright holder. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.