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Google worker climate demands signal growing activism in tech

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Jeff Tyson

In a letter drafted to Google’s chief financial officer this week, employees at the tech giant are demanding that their senior leadership sever contracts with fossil fuel companies and end funding for politicians, lobbyists or organizations that stand in the way of climate change action.

Glen Dowell

Associate Professor of Management and Organizations

Glen Dowell is a corporate sustainability researcher and professor of management and organizations at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. He says environmental activism among workers, particularly at tech companies, is likely to grow and reach the C-suite with greater leverage.

Dowell says:

“A century ago, workers rose up to challenge their employers to provide better working conditions and fair wages. Today’s workers are fighting as well, voicing their disagreement with company practices around environmental and social issues. Google is the latest example, and it is unlikely to be the last, for at least two reasons.

“First, younger employees are more concerned with social and environmental justice. A 2018 Gallup poll, for example, found that while 56 percent of Americans aged 55 and older were seriously concerned about climate change, 70 percent of those aged 18-34 voiced such concerns. As that group grows in the workforce, their concerns will reach the C-suite more strongly.

“Second, it’s no coincidence that we’ve seen this in tech industries. These firms rely heavily on human capital as the key source of competitive advantage. Such educated employees feel empowered to speak up and know that they have leverage to effect change.”

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