Air pollution has grave consequences — the World Health Organization estimates it kills 7 million people a year. Indeed, recent research suggests closer to 9 million people died from exposure to air pollution caused by burning fossil fuel each year from 2012 to 2018. The economic impacts on health and productivity from exposure to air pollution add up to trillions of dollars. On top of that is the profound, existential threat of climate change.

These consequences are not evenly distributed. In the United States, Black Americans are three times more likely to die from air pollution. In California, about 44 percent of Latinos live with poor air quality, compared to 25 percent of non-Latinos. Climate change impacts including extreme heat and flooding also disproportionately affect people of color.

It’s U.S. Climate Action Week, and statistics such as these underscore the lived experiences of millions of people, and the urgent need for immediate, collective action.

With all levels of government mobilizing to invest in environmental justice, it’s time for the private sector to step up, too. Businesses play a critical role in addressing the converging crises of climate change, public health and widening economic disparities.

It’s not just about reducing or even reversing individual corporate carbon footprints. It’s about redesigning the way we do business to solve for public good and economic growth at the same time. Products and services should be designed for and with communities. Business models can serve shareholders and stakeholders simultaneously.

By building community-centric innovation through direct partnership with and employment of people affected by environmental injustice, companies can prime their products and services to catalyze local climate action and economic growth at the same time.

Read the full article about working together for climate and economic justice by Davida Herzl at GreenBiz.