Engaging Employers to Protect Their Most Important Resource—Their Workers—from Our Changing Climate


During the past year, and particularly this summer, we’ve seen extreme weather in communities across the nation, ranging from withering heat to natural disasters, including floods, hurricanes and wildfires. From a business perspective, these growing threats don’t just affect operations but also the health, safety and security of a business’ workers.

In an effort to help employers address the impact of a changing climate on worker health, well-being, and productivity, the CDC Foundation along with Mercer, a global consulting leader, this week announced an initiative to establish the National Commission on Climate and Workforce Health with the Health Action Alliance, the nation’s largest private sector network operating at the intersection of business and public health.

The CDC Foundation’s President and CEO Judy Monroe, MD, summed up this latest test for businesses: “Extreme weather like what we experienced in some regions during the summer of 2023 creates health challenges that businesses must plan for to protect their most important asset—their employees.”

The World Health Organization cites the changing climate as the world’s single biggest health threat today, and from a business perspective, U.S. workers have expressed their concerns.

“In a Mercer survey of more than 2,000 U.S. workers conducted last year, 43 percent said they were extremely concerned or very concerned about adverse climate events. Business leaders can take action to better support a climate-resilient workforce,” said Tracy Watts, senior partner and national leader of U.S. Health Policy, Mercer.

Ranging from exposure to heat to decreased air quality to extreme weather to infectious diseases and environmental contaminants, health threats from our changing climate continue to threaten employee health, limit productivity and increase illness or injury-related costs.

According to the Health Action Alliance, “Despite growing consensus throughout the business community around climate action and sustainability for the future, employers are less aware of the health impacts of our changing climate and need the tools to mitigate and address these impacts for their workforce.”

With this in mind, the National Commission on Climate and Workforce Health will begin by recruiting top business leaders nationwide to study the climate-related trends and health risks employees and organizations face. The Commission will leverage data and insights to create actionable tools and strategies for employers to help reduce long-term costs and advance equitable health outcomes for workers and communities.

The CDC Foundation is pleased to be part of the Commission as one component of our overall portfolio of climate and health related activities. These include building community preparedness; developing a national climate health workforce; activating young leaders to raise awareness about the health impacts of our changing climate; communicating the health impacts of our changing climate; developing cross-sector partnerships with diverse health organizations to address climate and health; and amplifying the connection between food security and a changing climate.

Pierce Nelson
Pierce Nelson is the chief communications officer for the CDC Foundation.