Overturning Roe v. Wade Is a Loss for Business and Climate Too
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade isn’t just a loss for reproductive rights. When women and those assigned female at birth lose this autonomy, the economy and climate can suffer too.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade isn’t just a loss for reproductive rights. When women and those assigned female at birth lose this autonomy over their healthcare and family planning decisions, the economy and climate can suffer too.
In fact, 81% think this rollback will cause some type of business disruption, according to a survey by Women+ in Climate Tech, an industry group for women and non-binary professionals.
On an immediate level, business disruption has already appeared in the sense that "a lot of people are having a hard time working today,” says Helen Bertelli, co-founder of Women+ in Climate Tech. “This is very difficult emotionally for a lot of women and a lot of people. There’s shock and sadness and fear."
On a longer-term basis, companies could lose staff that don’t want to live in areas with restrictive reproductive rights.
“What we’ve been hearing from our network are concerns that women may want to relocate from the states that roll back abortion rights,” says Bertelli. “You may see a brain drain from a city like Austin or Houston.”
That brain drain can then hurt environmental progress as well.
“In Houston, there's burgeoning climate work,” says Bertelli. “The last thing you want to do is lose your best and brightest women because they’re afraid to live in the state.”
But it’s not just about relocating and shifting climate work from one city to another. Losing the right to choose can affect career trajectories, for example, causing more businesses to miss out on the benefits of gender diversity.
“Unplanned pregnancy can disrupt young people’s educational and career goals, limit earning potential, and affect their children’s health and educational outcomes,” notes the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Family Planning Could Cut Carbon Emissions
In addition, to affecting career prospects, better family planning could lead to better climate outcomes.
Project Drawdown, a climate solutions nonprofit, conducted an analysis finding that “universal access to quality education for all children, and voluntary family planning for all girls, women, and couples around the world” could reduce nearly 70 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions between 2020 and 2050.
For context, that’s almost twice as much as all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions for the year 2021, according to an analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental organization.
The reasons why family planning and education help the fight against climate change include several factors, ranging from the effects on demographics (e.g., population growth and urbanization) to education and skills development related to climate solutions, notes Project Drawdown.
Better climate outcomes then tie back to better business outcomes, as Women+ in Climate Tech explores in a report created in partnership with the insurer Aon.
For example, climate change threatens global supply chain resiliency, "and guidance is beginning to reflect the necessity for large businesses to set measurable, time-bound, climate- and resilience-related targets for their suppliers,” the report notes.
Getting there requires a greater focus on issues like gender equity. Take the gender disparities among corporate leadership, for example. The Aon and Women+ in Climate Tech joint research points to several other studies showing how more leadership diversity results in better financial outcomes and climate governance.
“We have to shift our thinking fundamentally if we’re going to tackle the climate crisis,” says Bertelli. “Diverse thinking will help.”
That will likely require more businesses to come out in support of issues like reproductive rights.
"At a time when female talent is in high demand, especially in [areas like climate tech and sustainability], it is clear from this survey that supporting reproductive rights with actions such as expanded health benefits, may help companies in the race to recruit and retain talent," says a statement from Paul Whiteley, emeritus professor of political economy at the University of Essex, and a consultant on the Women+ in Climate Tech survey.
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