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How the Beauty Industry Is Going All-In on Climate Action

CodeRed4Climate is the industry's answer to growing concerns about the warming planet.


Today, Tuesday September 21st, over 100 beauty brands will go dark on social media in order to encourage their followers to call their Congressional representatives in support of specific climate change policies. Spearheaded by the president of Versed Skincare, Melanie Bender, CodeRed4Climate is a call to action that includes brands like Versed, Uoma Beauty, and Youth to the People, reaching around 50 million people on social media.

"Right now, both houses of Congress will be in session," Bender tells me over a Zoom call. "We're in the midst of this budgeting process and now is the time that we can have an impact if our voices are heard." According to Bender, the campaign is centered around impactful climate change policy. "When it comes to climate change," she says, "while individual action is meaningful, it's insignificant. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't act, but it means that you should act as a "we" instead of acting as an "I." Bender suggests looking at where you're uniquely positioned in order to see where you can have a larger impact. "For me, I have a company, I have a platform, and I know founders who are just as passionate about this as I am," says Bender. "So I called up five founders, and they each called five more, and now we have this movement."


It's an important message for people to hear, Bender goes on to add, because reducing one's individual carbon footprint isn't going to create the future we want. "I've spoken to experts on climate change about how we move forward and I can say that it comes down to collective action," says Bender. "It's about shifting the system and pushing our federal government towards aligning their interests and their investments with a warming-free future."

When asked about the impact that the beauty industry can have when it comes to pushing for climate change solutions, Bender notes that while parts of the industry have embraced sustainability as a part of our future, there's still a ways to go. "The industry has been very focused on landfill waste," she says. "It's not that landfill waste isn't important. It's that climate change is now an extremely dire issue that needs to be at the top of our agenda, the top of our initiatives, and at the top of our investment decisions."

Bender and CodeRed4Climate aim to harness the vast influence that the beauty industry wields in order to change climate policy, not just within the industry, but outside it as well. The team partnered with Call4Climate, a group that works with grassroots organizations to create agendas centered around the most important climate policies to advance now. Below, Bender breaks down the four major policy points that CodeRed4Climate is focusing on during this stage of their campaign.

"I've spoken to experts on climate change about how we move forward and I can say that it comes down to collective action."

1. Clean Electricity Payment Program that Cuts Emissions and Modernizes Our Grid

"This first point is a super important one. It's all about introducing a clean energy payment program that cuts emissions and modernizes our grid. It's a budget-based regulatory measure. So, in a budget, you can't establish regulations, but you can create financial benefits to incentivize power companies, for example, to deliver on renewable energy to consumers. It's not about mandating them to switch over, it's about making this a smart business decision for them and investing in our economy in order to make it an economy that we want it to be.

"The goal is to help transition our grid to a carbon-free power sector by 2030. So that means that the fossil fuels that contribute 74 percent to our emissions as a nation will be phased out of our power sector by 2030."

2. Directing 40 Percent of Government Funding to Frontline Communities

"This is also known as Justice 40. It's a really important measure that helps us take a step towards environmental justice here in the US. It ensures that whenever the federal government creates a new budget program on climate or clean energy, at least 40 percent of those benefits are being directed towards disadvantaged communities. And that's defined as low income communities and communities of color.

"So that could include a flood mitigation program or public transit expansion—anything that's a part of the investments towards climate and clean energy, we want to make sure that they're going to the people who have contributed the least towards this problem."

3. Ending Subsidies to Fossil Fuel Corporations

"Ending subsidies to fossil fuel corporations is one of the easiest steps for people to get on board with. Like we mentioned earlier, fossil fuel accounts for 74 percent of the US greenhouse gas emissions and they also contribute to a significant amount of public health issues.

"You can also work to end fossil fuel subsidies as an employee. If your company offers a retirement plan, find out what you're invested in. You can go to FossilFreeFunds and plug in the names of the funds in your portfolio to get a breakdown of the fossil fuel exposure you have right now. If your retirement account includes problematic investments, you can work with your HR department to transition your plan to fossil fuel-free funds."

4. The Formation of a Civilian Climate Corps that Puts People to Work

"The reality is that it takes people to accomplish things like building a new, clean climate infrastructure. This step would form a Job Corps that puts people to work building these projects. It's modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corp, which was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the Great Depression and it put millions of people to work at the time."

According to Bender and CodeRed4Climate, these are climate policy solutions that boost our economy and help our nation thrive with more equity. Following the September 21st day of action, CodeRed4Climate will roll into a group called Planet A. "That's going to be a group that helps take on more of these challenges and opportunities specific to climate change," says Bender. "I'd like a part of that to include looking at the beauty industry and figuring out how we reduce our impact," she adds. "But before that can happen, we need to get these climate policies into the spending bill right now and that effort begins on the 21st."

You can join in on CodeRed4Climate's day of action by calling 202-318-5170 to support climate action from Congress now.

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