Sierra Club

Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program

The Sierra Club believes that trade, done right, can protect workers and the environment in the United States and abroad. Done wrong, it can increase fossil fuel development, weaken environmental policies, and hurt communities around the globe. The Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program has shed light on the environmental threats posed by our current global trading system for close to two decades. We work to ensure that U.S. trade policy supports, rather than undermines, environmental protection and workers' rights. The Responsible Trade intern will support this campaign for fair trade. More information on the program is here.

Interns in the Responsible Trade Program directly interact with the latest developments in international trade by:

  • Researching trade agreements as they relate to energy, investor rights, and environmental safeguards;
  • Attending and reporting back on Congressional hearings relating to U.S. trade policy;
  • Preparing briefings and presentations concerning trade;
  • Contacting Congressional offices and informing legislators about relevant issues; 
  • Assisting grassroots efforts to empower communities and highlight the risks of harmful proposed trade agreements
  • Keeping up-to-date with rapidly evolving developments in U.S. trade policy; and
  • Other tasks of the program.

Required Knowledge and Skills:

  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Demonstrated ability to research complex issues
  • Ability to work well independently or in a team setting
  • Ability to converse comfortably on the phone
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Experience with grassroots organizing and campaigns is a plus
  • Good time management and organizational skills

2015 Intern Reflection:

For those interested in the policy side of the fight against climate change, there’s no better place to be than the Sierra Club legislative office here in Washington. This summer I was an intern for the Responsible Trade Program, and I learned a lot about the way trade agreements and other seemingly irrelevant pieces of legislation play a huge role in determining whether or not we successfully transition away from a fossil fuel based economy. 

My work has centered on the program’s current fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a trade deal being negotiated between the United States and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim. Our campaign is concerned about provisions of the agreement that would force the Department of Energy to approve all liquefied natural gas export permits - expanding the use of fracking and increasing the development of fossil fuel transport infrastructure. We also oppose the inclusion of the investor-state dispute settlement model that has historically given multinational companies (in particular ones in the fossil fuel industry) too much power over the implementation of policies in sovereign countries. While there are several other interns from other schools working in the office this summer, I’ve taken on this specific project focus, so I’m responsible for everything my supervisor needs done for the campaign. 

Most of my time this summer has been spent supporting the work of Sierra Club organizers and chapter volunteers in different states. They have been doing rallies, phone banks, drop-ins and meetings with their representatives and senators urging them to vote in line with their interests. I check in with them about what they want to do, give them whatever help they need, and collect information about all of their activities so we know what is going on in the movement at large. When I’m not working with volunteers, I write blog posts, do media roundups, drop things off in congressional offices, and learn about the other work going on in the legislative office by talking to people working on campaigns around me. Everyone is incredibly friendly and willing to tell me about their work, so I have a lot of helpful resources for my questions about issue advocacy and climate change policy work. I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in environmental work spend a summer at the Sierra Club legislative office!

Sidni Frederick '17

2014 Director's Intern Reflection:

I work at the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Team, which pursues legislation and international treaties that advance clean energy, conservation, and human rights around the world. The internship has been far more engaging and intellectual than I ever expected. Though I expected grassroots work like phone calls and petitioning, I have been pleasantly surprised by instead researching legislation and developments in American foreign trade policy, attending congressional hearings, and preparing presentations and briefings on our issues. I feel like Harvard academics have given me useful research skills, but my experience at the Sierra Club has taught me to organize my research notes such that they are understandable to others. I feel like a valuable, contributing member of the team, and I am lucky to have kind, encouraging, and challenging supervision.

There is a large squad of Sierra Club interns (about 12), but I am the only one working specifically on trade, giving me a fun social network while still feeling irreplaceable in my role (others cannot simply substitute in for me), and without any sense of competition between us. I have also gained substantial respect for the Sierra Club as an organization. We are located just a few blocks from the Capitol, and we have powerful connections in Congress. The staff is careful to fact-check every word we state or publish. For example, in my research on the relationship between fracking and organic farming, I researched and cited a wide range of scientific studies, surveys, and reports about both subjects. Working here, I have also learned about the intricate legal systems governing non-profit organizations.

I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to intern here, especially with the backing of the IOP.

Ethan Samet '15

2013 Director's Intern Reflection:

Interning with the Sierra Club this summer has been incredibly educational in more ways than one. In the 8 weeks I've spent interning, I've been a first-hand witness to the crucial importance of lobbying, the advantages of strong political ties, the delicacy with which all members of the political world have to deal with hot-button subjects, and the sweet, sweet feeling of victory when even one legislative decision goes your way. 

As a Beyond Oil intern in the office, I frequently complete research and summarize important reports related to tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed project that has been the central focus of the Beyond Oil Campaign for the time I've been working. Because the Sierra Club is a grassroots organization, I also spend a lot of time outside of the office. I have organized and attended several visibility events in D.C. in which regular citizens as well as environmental groups come together at locations where President Obama is headed to express how deeply we want him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The mix of desk work and direct activism has made for very exciting workweeks this summer.

If you're looking to take part in meaningful work in which you'll interact with an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff, then the Sierra Club is an excellent internship for you.

Jenna Overton ‘14

Washington, D.C.
Advocacy/Policy, Environment