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Industrious Labs: Recommendation

This report was last updated in November 2022.

Industrious Labs recommendation summary

Giving Green classifies Industrious Labs as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change. Heavy industries like steel and cement are the literal building blocks of the global economy. They account for around one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, but have not been a major focus of governments or philanthropists. Industrious Labs is a new organization dedicated to decarbonizing global heavy industry. In collaboration with partner organizations, Industrious Labs advocates to corporations to make low-carbon commitments, and applies legal and political pressure to governments to ensure there’s regulation and public funding to speed up the transition.

As a new organization, Industrious Labs has a limited track record but big ambitions. We are excited about its potential for impact because it is focused on a highly neglected area, its leadership has a track record of success, and we think its comprehensive industry-specific strategies will pull on the right levers to drive industry’s transition. We also think Industrious Labs has substantial growth potential. It is building dedicated teams for each of its industry-specific campaigns, and there is considerable room to deepen existing campaigns and add new sectors. For more information, see our deep dive research report on Industrious Labs, a summary below, and our broader deep dive on decarbonizing heavy industry.

  • What is Industrious Labs? Industrious Labs is a new (publicly launched in October 2022) environmental organization that aims to strategically coordinate other organizations to decarbonize heavy industry. As of October 2022, it has 12 staff, and its leadership is composed of former Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign leaders.

  • What does Industrious Labs do? At a high level, Industrious Labs follows a five-step process: it (1) identifies promising heavy industries to focus on, (2) writes a strategy memo to outline its plan, (3) analyzes the CO2e averted if it succeeds, (4) builds capacity to execute its strategy, and (5) executes its strategic plan. In general, Industrious Labs’ strategic plans include three broad levers: (1) advocate to major purchasers (governments or corporations) to implement low-carbon procurement standards to apply pressure on heavy industry producers, (2) advocate to governments to change heavy industry regulation, and (3) Advocate for government legislation to provide additional funding to decarbonize heavy industry and/or ensure organizations use existing funding. Specific activities vary by industry, and the degree to which these levers are necessary and/or employed by Industrious Labs depends on the industry.

  • How could Industrious Labs reduce greenhouse gases? Industrious Labs ultimately expects its activities to cause more heavy industry producers to switch to low-carbon production sooner than they otherwise would have, which results in avoided greenhouse gas emissions. Since Industrious Labs is a new organization, we’re unsure about its effectiveness. In general, we believe its theory of change is plausible and Industrious Labs is well-placed to develop and execute industry-specific strategies.

  • What is Industrious Labs’ cost-effectiveness? As a rough plausibility check, we developed a cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) to estimate the costs and impacts of Industrious Labs’ aluminum campaign to secure corporate commitments to switch to low-carbon procurement/production. This CEA includes highly subjective guess parameters and should not be taken literally. Overall, we guess Industrious Labs could plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation. We have low confidence in this CEA, but generally view it as a positive input to our overall assessment of Industrious Labs.

  • Is there room for more funding? Industrious Labs is a new organization, which makes its organizational room for more funding relatively difficult to assess. Overall, we think Industrious Labs can currently productively absorb additional funding, which could increase its growth trajectory over the next few years. In the longer-term, we think Industrious Labs is likely to have strong fundraising success, which may limit its future room for more funding.

  • Are there major co-benefits or adverse effects? We think the co-benefits and adverse effects of Industrious Labs’ efforts are similar to those for the broader effort to decarbonize heavy industry: it may reduce local pollution, and have unclear employment effects as global industries grow, shrink, and change due to decarbonization.

  • Key uncertainties and open questions: In addition to our broader uncertainties around decarbonizing heavy industry (e.g., geographic focus), we’re uncertain about Industrious Labs’ industry-specific effectiveness, organizational effectiveness, US focus, techno-feasibility assessments, and future room for more funding.

  • Bottom line / Next steps: We classify Industrious Labs as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change. We believe donations to Industrious Labs are within the range of the most cost-effective giving opportunities we’ve identified, and could additionally increase its organizational growth trajectory. We plan to continue to assess our key uncertainties, and believe that we will be able to substantially improve our understanding of the severity and importance of these uncertainties as Industrious Labs begins to execute many of its strategies in 2023.

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This is a non-partisan analysis (study or research) and is provided for educational purposes.

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