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How TXI is working toward environmental justice

In April, a flagship UN report made something clear: we’re on a “fast track to climate disaster.” Without massive global action, the average global temperature will increase by more than double the limit needed to escape the worst of climate change.

Humans are causing climate change—and it’s our collective responsibility to fix it. That means governments, companies, and individuals must work together to slash greenhouse gas emissions. And every action must be grounded in environmental justice, which is key to ensuring an equitable future for everyone.

To guide our climate action at TXI, we’ve made environmental justice one of our four justice pillars. Here’s what that means for us—and how we’re working toward it as a company.

Background: what is environmental justice?

Environmental justice is more than basic climate action and policy. It’s a call to mitigate the impact of climate change with a mindset that accounts for structural oppression and historical wrongs.

Why this specific mindset? While climate change affects everyone, marginalized communities bear the brunt of the impact. That’s thanks to a number of intersecting factors, like colonial exploitation, racist and classist land use policies, racist infrastructural neglect, and the forced migration of indigenous peoples.

The combined effect has left many marginalized communities vulnerable to the worst aspects of climate change, including growing water scarcity, deadlier heat wave exposure, and years-long disaster recovery timelines.

An environmental justice framework centers these experiences and prioritizes developing equitable strategies that protect the health and safety of marginalized communities worldwide.

Environmental justice is a collective effort

The climate crisis requires immediate, justice-minded action. The good news: there’s growing international momentum.

The US federal government, for example, has committed $60 billion to stateside environmental justice initiatives. And governments in Denmark, Scotland, and Belgium have pledged millions in direct aid to vulnerable countries in the Global South.

Companies and individuals play a key role here, too. Over the last few years, we’ve been rethinking what that looks like at TXI.

In the past, we’ve leaned heavily on the individual aspect of climate action, like encouraging folks to compost or sponsoring at-home solar panel installations.

Now, our Green Team is driving a mindset shift toward organizational accountability and action. Some questions we’re asking:

  • How can we discuss climate change at an organizational level?

  • How can we embed climate justice into our business operations?

  • How can we inspire our clients and peers to invest in protecting our planet?

A big piece of this shift is education. Humans contribute to climate change in many ways, and the impacts are complex. With a shared basis for understanding, we can develop an org-wide climate strategy that’s rooted in environmental justice.

Our focus for Q4: clean water access in a changing climate

TXI uses quarterly “justice arcs” as a basis for education and engagement. This quarter, we’re thinking about clean water access and climate change through an environmental justice lens.

Clean water scarcity is a timely topic for our American employees. In September, a Guardian analysis found dangerously high lead levels in tap water for over 1,000 Chicago homes, mostly in Black and Latinx communities. And Jackson, Mississippi, made headlines in August when torrential rains overloaded the city’s crumbling water infrastructure. The result: zero access to clean running water for a majority-Black city where a quarter of residents live in poverty.

TXI is a global company, though—and water scarcity is a global problem. Worldwide, one in 10 people lack access to clean water. As climate change worsens, so will the water crisis, especially in the Global South.

As part of this quarter’s justice arc, we’ll be discussing these issues and more. Some subjects in our curriculum:

  • Water scarcity through an intersectional lens (considering dimensions like race, gender, and class).

  • Limited water access in places like Jackson and Puerto Rico.

  • The movement to protect indigenous water access.

  • The complex nature of corporate-led solutions like carbon offsets.

Education is core to this arc. But there’s no state of perfect knowledge here; learning shouldn’t get in the way of doing.

That’s why we’re using each conversation as a launching point for action. One approach we’re taking: a Chicago River cleanup through the Friends of the Chicago River. For folks based outside of Chicago, we’ll be encouraging volunteer cleanups near their own local waterways.

Every action goes a long way

With climate change, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the details. As individuals, an endless deluge of disaster-related headlines can create a sense of climate fatalism that leads to inaction. At the level of the organization, leaders might waste years looking for a golden climate solution.

But in a climate crisis, action matters now. Thankfully, we have many of the tools we need to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Take the water crisis, for example. South Africa has used its free basic water policy to distribute clean water to its most water-stressed communities. And in the US, cities are reconsidering wastewater recycling as a way to weather more intense droughts.

There’s a lot we can do as individuals, and every action has an impact. It could be as simple as teaching folks to turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth—which saves nearly 3,000 gallons of water per person per year.

Companies need to take action, too. Leaders can work with other organizations to…

  • Reduce corporate greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Educate employees about environmental justice.

  • Look for environmentally conscious clients and partners.

  • Make justice-minded climate investments (e.g., in water access nonprofits or ethical carbon capture solutions).

With every step we take, remember that the conventional wisdom on climate solutions is constantly evolving. In the 1970s, for instance, American environmental activists were staunchly opposed to nuclear energy. Today, many see nuclear as one of the cleanest long-term alternatives to fossil fuels.

The takeaway here: keep an open mind on the path ahead. With consistent education, leaders and employees can continually evaluate their thinking through a justice-focused lens.

Follow our journey toward environmental justice

An environmental justice framework offers us hope in a changing climate. But the road ahead isn’t paved with one-off initiatives. It requires long-term structural changes to ensure a healthy planet for generations.

At TXI, we’re focused on creating sustainable shifts in our business operations and company mindset. From supporting climate education to going carbon neutral, we’re invested in urgent action to protect our planet and the people we share it with.

Want to follow us on our path forward? Drop us a line—we’d love to chat.

Published by John Newfry , Hannah Green in Justice

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