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ESG Called Out, Changing Jobs and Wildfire Trends: EHS Today’s Weekly Reads

June 3, 2022
A look at recent headlines that pertain to the health of our planet and how a changing climate may change the way we live.

Peonies are blooming, s’mores are roasting and graduation season is underway. We know celebrities and other famous people are often asked to deliver commencement speeches. We don’t usually pay attention to them, but we really liked what actress and writer Constance Wu told Cornell University grads: “Admitting that you don’t know or that you need help professionally, psychologically or emotionally … it’s not a mark on your record, it’s just part of the story of life.”

Amid all of the joys of Mother Nature, there has been much heartache and grief from the recent shootings across the country. We woke up to news this morning that there were two shootings yesterday: in Ames, Iowa, and Milwaukee. These were proceeded by shootings in Tulsa, Okla.; Buffalo, N.Y.; and Uvalde, Texas, where funerals have begun for the 19 students and two teachers who were killed at Robb Elementary School.

Editor-in-Chief Dave Blanchard compiled a list of recent articles we’ve written about workplace violence, “Maybe There IS Something You Can Do.” We hope that helps get conversations going about more ways to protect employees. That conversation wouldn’t be complete without talking about mental health or psychological safety. EHS Today will continue to provide resources, such as these exclusive findings in the 2021 Mental Health in the Workplace Report.

These are challenging times. Let us know in the comments what else we can do to help you.

In the meantime, we will continue to look at environmental issues that are affecting us now and could present greater challenges in the future.

Elon Musk calls out ESG

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has a tendency to make headlines. His recent comments about environmental, social and governance (ESG) caught our attention.

Musk called out ESG after S&P Global, the manager of a popular ESG index, removed Tesla from the index. Musk took to Twitter to say that S&P rated fossil fuel producer ExxonMobil highly, but his electric vehicle company didn’t make the list.

“ESG is a scam,” he wrote. “It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors.”

The S&P noted that its decision was based on more than Tesla’s environmental record. Multiple current and former employees have alleged racial discrimination, among other serious matters.

“Tesla is just simply not an open-and-shut ESG case,” said Jon Hale, who directs sustainability research at the mutual fund tracking firm Morningstar, to The New York Times’ DealBook. “While it’s clear the company’s product is beneficial to the environment, Tesla is now a big company and it also has an impact on employees and customers, and those issues concern ESG investors.”

The article goes on to explain that ESG has been facing backlash from other individuals and organizations. Part of the problem may be defining ESG, its scope and potential impact. That could have implications on many more companies, well beyond the S&P Global.

Read more here.

Changing Climate, Changing Jobs

We were struck by this overview from Axios about how jobs are being affected by climate change and global warming. It makes sense, but we had never looked at the issue from that perspective before.  

We have long been writing about the dangers of working in heat. Recently, OSHA has started stepping up its game. The federal agency recently announced a new National Emphasis Program for heat hazards.

But this piece offers several statistics and helps connects the dots for what we might see in the future. This includes a 2019 report from the U.N. International Labour Organization that said the equivalent of 80 million full-time jobs could be lost globally in 2030 due to working hours lost to high temperatures. That calculation is based on the assumption that the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels is met, which the world is not presently at track to do so.

We will likely see a shift in the labor market. Not all countries will be equally affected, and the differences will likely be felt at a local level and further breakdowns of race/ethnicity. It’s important to keep one eye on the long-term, and this short summary from Axios packs a wallop with its statistics and citations for further reading.

Read more here.

A Looming Threat

Fire season is already underway, and data shows that it will get worse. Recent findings show that wildfires became larger, more frequent and more widespread in the 2000s.

A team of environmental scientists found that fire frequency has tripled in some parts of the U.S. And as frequency has grown, so has the size of those fires. In 2018, 2.5 times more acreage was destroyed in the West each year compared with the previous two decades. The scientists attributes those changes to droughts, human-caused climate change and people who inadvertently started fires (as compared to natural factors such as lightning strikes).

“Adaptation to these emerging regimes requires that we rethink our priorities for action, especially given large discrepancies in ecological and social vulnerability,” the scientists wrote in their piece, which was published in the journal Science Advances.

Companies will need to prepare for fire safety, disruptions and reevaluating processes to see if they can be part of the solution or lessen their environmental impacts. Because these wildfires aren't going anywhere, and the worst blaze is unfortunately yet to come. 

Read more here.  

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