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New Guide Outlines 7 Principles for Partnering with Frontline Communities

The Business Guide to Advancing Climate Justice grounds its principles in the experiences of the communities most affected by climate change to empower businesses to prioritize regenerative practices and social responsibility.

In an increasingly climate-challenged world, it’s more critical than ever for businesses to champion equity and justice while mitigating their environmental impact. Amidst a growing arsenal of guides and standards for climate action, the just-released Business Guide to Advancing Climate Justice — co-produced by Forum for the Future and B Lab U.S. & Canada — emerges as a beacon of inclusivity and collaboration for stakeholders within the business sector and beyond.

The new Guide distinguishes itself by amplifying the voices of those most affected by climate change — grounding its principles in the lived experiences of frontline communities. Through a partnership-driven approach, it seeks to empower businesses to embrace new leadership paradigms centered on regenerative practices and social responsibility.

Sustainable Brands® sat down with the co-authors of the Guide to dig deeper.

Many guides and standards on climate action exist for businesses worldwide — the UN Global Compact, SBTi, CDP, TCFD and more. How does this Guide set itself apart?

The Business Guide to Advancing Climate Justice sets itself apart from other guides and standards on climate action for businesses by compiling and prioritizing the perspectives of people living and working at the frontlines of climate change, people working to support and advance social-justice issues, and those who believe that there is a significant role for the private sector to take action. Grounding the reader in the experiences, stories and considerations of those most impacted by climate change, the guide then brings in the voices of business, policymakers and civil society experts working in partnership with frontline communities to advance these issues.

This is not a ‘standard’ on what climate justice looks like and how companies must measure themselves against others — as that varies greatly depending on the context, the affected communities and the specific challenges they face. We offer this content to contribute to the broader conversation and provide practical guidance to companies ready to take action. We aim to elevate and connect stories of what’s possible and highlight areas where urgent private-sector action is imperative.

Who is the Guide’s target audience, and how will you assess its impact on facilitating a just transition?

This guide is for business leaders, entrepreneurs, sustainability professionals, community managers, HR, supply chain and logistics managers, R&D teams, external affairs leaders, and senior leadership teams committed to centering equity and justice as part of their climate-action and sustainability efforts.

It is for those willing and ready to take on new leadership approaches that require a profound shift from the traditional mindset rooted in authoritative, so-called expert roles. This new leadership approach focuses on a regenerative mindset — embracing humility and learning, and acknowledging the need for collaboration between businesses and frontline communities to address the climate crisis.

Assessing its impact on facilitating a just transition is complex. We know our Guide sits alongside many unique, complementary resources; and we hope businesses use it as a tool in their toolbelt to advance climate justice.

Already, the level of engagement and interest from businesses is impressive; and we are excited to hear more from them as they begin implementing the principles. Over time, we aim to share the lessons learned from the Guide with businesses in partnership with communities — as case studies to continue to build out specificity — and share the insights with the broader business community. We aim for businesses to partner with communities to ladder up — contributing to a just transition.

The Guide mentions seven principles for partnership with frontline communities. Can you share any case studies or examples of successful climate action within communities to inspire businesses?

B Lab U.S. & Canada regularly collate climate-justice case studies to share best practices; we were excited to include them in the Guide. Here are a few recent case studies in which businesses have successfully taken climate action within their communities.

Cooperative Coffees:
  • Cooperative CoffeesClimate Impact Fund, overseen by Impact Manager Melissa Wilson Becerril, supports farmers in building resilience while promoting regenerative practices and natural disaster recovery. One of Cooperative’s long-time partners, COMSA, trains farmers worldwide in sustainable agricultural practices; Cooperative Coffees offers a training grant for other growers to visit and learn. Over the years, Cooperative’s projects have covered various issues — from water and food security to schooling for children in areas devastated by natural disasters, and directly funding farmer-owned organizations.

  • Critical to the Fund's success is Cooperative Coffees’ governance model, which uses cooperative principles for decision-making — the coop has roaster members and staff actively participating in committees that govern the organization, and the Producer Voice Committee allows Cooperative to receive input directly from farmers. When asked how to create conditions where farmers feel comfortable to share their voices, Melissa said, “The most important part is making space and recognizing when you have a position of power … figuring out how much you can actually take a step back and bring these communities directly into the decision-making process to represent themselves because they know what they're doing.”

Persephone Brewing Company:
  • British Columbia-based Persephone Brewing works with local partners on various community and environmental projects. They located their brewery on a farm so that their site could be a place for community gatherings and have developed skills to support community-led projects. In response to a need identified by local community members, they host an organic feed program to provide farmers with access to certified organic bulk feed locally. The bulk feed program also reduces packaging and transportation emissions. Persephone also helped to incubate a Community Supported Agriculture food box program to increase access to organic local food. Learn more here.
Evolution Marketing:
  • Evolution Marketing is a small marketing firm based in Wisconsin that helps organizations increase their sustainability efforts and communicate their social and environmental actions. It has strong relationships in its local community — for example, working with the local high school to increase student engagement in sustainability. Evolution’s founder, Lisa Geason-Bauer, has also worked on the Waukesha Ozaukee Washington County Workforce Development board. Working alongside client Green Homeowners United, Lisa led a meeting of key stakeholders — including labor unions, residential green-building leads and Wisconsin workforce-development leaders — to explore together the training needed for local laborers to gain certification to do the work required for homeowners to take advantage of the rebates tied to the Inflation Reduction Act. The convening was grounded in the understanding that local frontline communities experience high energy burdens because of their accommodation. It focused on hearing from a range of advocacy organizations to deepen understanding of the climate-justice implications of the issues. Together, the assembled representatives explored the best ways to create career pathways for individuals facing barriers to employment. Learn more here.

The Guide focuses on climate-vulnerable communities in North America. How could it be applied to other regions — especially emerging and developing markets that may be more vulnerable to climate impacts?

While climate injustice is a global issue, this Guide is grounded on information gathered from communities and businesses across the US and Canada. Though we believe the lessons could apply in multiple contexts, it is critical to acknowledge that experiences of climate injustice are context-specific.

Communities and businesses around the world can adapt this Guide's examples to their own settings and needs. Many businesses have supply chains in emerging and developing markets and can use the wisdom from the community partnership sections to advance climate justice throughout their value chain in all of the communities in which they have a presence.

A principal point made in the Guide is that climate justice cannot be achieved in a silo. Do Forum for the Future and B Lab U.S. & Canada aim to create stewardship or collaboration-based networks to help attain a just future for all?

We recognize that climate justice cannot be achieved in isolation and requires collective action and partnership across sectors and communities.

Forum for the Future plans to focus on place-based collaborations in areas vulnerable to climate crises this year. This work will bring together frontline communities to understand existing challenges and identify what is needed from the private sector to take collaborative action — utilizing the Business Guide to Advancing Climate Justice. In this place-based work, we will collaborate with the broader ecosystem in the community — including businesses, municipalities, civil society, and others — to identify gaps between existing interventions and plans, foster dialogue among stakeholders, and pinpoint potential areas for collaborative action. Our goal is to spark action towards just and community-centered climate solutions that address the unique needs of each locality.

In addition to our place-based approach, Forum for the Future and B Lab U.S. & Canada will continue co-hosting learning events — including during Climate Week NYC — designed to help businesses identify ways to apply insights from our guidance and contribute to collective efforts towards climate justice.

B Lab U.S. & Canada has recently led a peer-to-peer climate justice learning journey for businesses seeking to embed climate justice in their climate-action plans; this drew on many of the Guide's recommendations, so businesses could explore what practical application looks like. Further cohorts are planned. This summer, B Lab U.S. & Canada will also launch the “Climate Finance Action Towards a Just Transition” learning and action cohort where ~50 B Corps will explore the climate finance recommendations in the Guide to learn alongside each other how they can align their company finances with a just transition.


Through strategic partnerships with frontline communities, we move closer to a future where climate justice is not just an ideal but a tangible reality. Quantifying its influence will be nuanced; but as the principles put forth in the Business Guide to Advancing Climate Justice gain traction among business leaders, success stories unfold and alliances strengthen, its potential for impact becomes increasingly evident.

To learn more about upcoming events and opportunities for collective action and partnership, reach out to Ksenia Benifand from Forum for the Future or Kylie Nealis from B Lab U.S. & Canada.