Climate change – employment link requires business rethink, says new IBA GEI report

Swift and effective action is needed to create new, sustainable economic models to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on the world’s working population, states a report published today by the International Bar Association Global Employment Institute (IBA GEI).

Titled Climate Change and Human Resources Policies Report, the 38-page analysis focuses on the relationship between climate change and employment, and aims to contribute to nascent discussions anticipating structural changes to business and the training needs of workforces transitioning to low-carbon economies. The report also highlights potential issues in relation to employment policies, labour law, ‘weak’ jobs, ‘expanding’ jobs and new jobs. Further, it draws attention to what some countries are doing to help their nations’ employees adjust to industrial change, and how trade unions, employers and educators are working together to deliver green skills training.

Pascale Lagesse, Co-Chair of the IBA GEI, commented: ‘Among industry leaders there is increased recognition that the consequences of climate change will affect their business models at a fundamental level as a result of needing to comply with laws passed at a national level, following the ratification of the Paris AgreementEach country will need to decipher how to implement the Agreement – principally, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius – into domestic law. Subsequently, many multinationals and large companies, while generally maintaining their culture, will need to adjust their organisations in a number of ways to conform to new legislation.’

Illustrating the point, Ms Lagesse commented: ‘For example, if during its manufacturing process, a tyre plant produces an amount of pollution above newly legislatively-permitted levels, it will have to address its operations to make it compliant with the law. This may take the form of: greater investment in the area of research and development; altering the process of waste disposal; re-training existing staff; hiring people who are more skilled; or purchasing more, or different, machines, etc. Whichever aspects are addressed, the business model will need modifying, thus making climate change a significant issue for employers.’

The report notes that the complexity and magnitude of the topic makes difficult the drawing of general conclusions. Rather, the report provides examples from countries in Western Europe and Canada, and of companies taking proactive measures to mitigate climate change issues.

Country examples include:

  • France, in 2000, made the fight against global warming a ‘National Priority’, and enacted this political will in the French Environmental Code in 2001;
  • Germany integrated the ‘national state objective (Staatsziel) of protection of the environment’ into the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany;
  • the United Kingdom has adopted the Climate Change Act of 2008, which provides the broad framework in the UK for tackling global warming;
  • Italy has adopted a Climate-Energy package, which provides for the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 18 per cent by 2020;
  • Finland passed a Climate Change Act, which establishes the planning of the country’s climate change policy and monitors its implementation; and
  • the Canadian provinces of Québec, Ontario and Manitoba have implemented similar carbon market systems that set a price on carbon, allowing emitters to purchase and sell emissions allowances according to their needs.

In the business arena, the report notes that multinational companies Accenture and Volvo have adopted various measures to adapt to new global environmental challenges, including the implementation of ‘green guidelines’ and the integration of environmental skills in training policies.

Graeme Kirk, Co-Chair of the IBA GEI, commented: ‘Importantly, debates around the changing climate are expanding to include the link between the topic, employers and employees. A more holistic approach to climate change is underway, with thought being given to increasing cooperation between governments, companies, trade unions and society in general, and to defining the green skills needed in a low-carbon economic model. It is clear that much work is required to transition existing employees to, and prepare a new generation of employees for, green jobs that reduce the environmental impact of economic activity. At the same time, there are also opportunities to create new jobs. In the broadest of terms, a multifaceted approach by businesses of securing, creating, substituting and eliminating jobs will be required.’

He concluded: ‘For CEOs of multinationals in particular, it is evident that climate action is adding another layer of complexity to the management process. The paradigm for tackling climate change through legislation, specifically in relation to employment, is of an inverted pyramid: from the global to national level, then to the company and individual level. The “think globally, but act locally” mantra has never been more apposite.’



Notes to the Editor

  1. The full Climate Change and Human Resources Policies Report can be downloaded without charge from the IBA website here:

  2. Contributors to the report (by multinational):
    • Nathalie Hellio, Accenture
    • Tove Bremell, Volvo
    Contributors to the report (by country):
    • Patrick L Benaroche and Charif El-Khouri Stikeman Elliott, Canada
    • Nina Isokorpi and Janne Nurminen Roschier, Finland
    • Pascale Lagesse Bredin Prat, France
    • Hans-Joachim Liebers Hengeler Mueller, Germany
    • Marco Maniscalco and Maddalena Lebro BonelliErede, Italy
    • Federico Torzo and Elisabetta Rebagliati Macchi di Cellere Gangemi, Italy
    • Mario Ibanez and Adria Carrasco Uría Menéndez, Spain
    • Henric Diefke, Anders Nordström, Tobias Normann and Sofia Tot Mannheimer Swartling, Sweden
    • Robert Chaplin, Roland Doughty and Alex Sim Slaughter and May, United Kingdom

  3. The International Bar Association Global Employment Institute (IBA GEI) was formed in early 2010 for the purpose of developing a global and strategic approach to the main legal issues in the human resources and human capital fields for multinationals and worldwide institutions. For more information, click here or paste the following link into your browser:

  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world's leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA's administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association's International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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