The murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis sparked an explosion of global action in support of Black Lives Matter. People of all races have congregated to protest in many countries, including the UK, expressing their frustration that, despite centuries of campaigning, racism is still evident throughout society.
White people are stepping up to visibly support the Black Lives Matter movement and learning how to be proper allies. And many of us have been stirred to reflect on our day to day lives and how passive acceptance of the way the world works has enabled systemic racism.
Environmental charities are predominantly white
As an environmental charity, we’re at the cross section of two predominantly white sectors in the UK and, in many ways, we are at the heart of the system that has led to this. The environment sector has been dominated by the white middle classes for years and is one of the least diverse sectors of all occupations.
Colonialism has been at the root of many environmental problems across the world, from the damage caused by mining land for valuable resources, to the introduction of new pests and pathogens that devastated indigenous communities and have affected ecosystems permanently.
There is increasing understanding that climate change and environmental degradation disproportionately impact the poorest communities; as BAME groups disproportionately suffer from social inequalities, they are more affected. This highlights why their voices must be represented in deciding environmental policies and action.
Awareness and change must come from every organisation
There are some amazing initiatives and projects working to change this situation in the environment sector. Mya Rose Craig’s Black to Nature and Judy Ling Wong are trailblazers. But these aren’t enough on their own. The awareness and change has to come from within every organisation.
Green Alliance is diverse in some ways: we have a number of different nationalities on our team and 19 of our current 26 staff are women. But you only have to look at our website’s staff page to see that, at present, we are not a racially diverse organisation. And, as a think tank, this means it is likely we are not being as effective as we could be. Our current strategy states that we believe everyone should share the benefits of a transition to a greener economy and that political leadership should be inclusive and fair. But we are acutely aware that if we are not reflecting the society we want to see or speaking to all of society, then we will be missing something.
We are embedded in a system that discriminates. We recruit highly qualified graduates, often from top universities. These are institutions with the lowest percentage of black students, part of a higher education system that inherently reinforces white privilege.
We are reassessing recruitment processes and embedding changes
To bring diverse voices into our organisation, at all levels, we know it is not enough to open the door and say everybody is welcome, our culture needs to make people from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and we have to reassess how we recruit and the hoops people go through to enter.
So we are making conscious moves to embed change. Working with our trustees and staff team we are now challenging ourselves to do better, from the board level down. We’re in the early stages, beginning with checking how unconscious bias is affecting our culture and processes. Our goal is to be a vibrant, diverse and representative organisation, fit for the future we want to see, and that our events, podcasts and blogs reflect all of the voices we need to hear from, to be able to present the most creative and effective solutions for a greener, healthier and more prosperous future for everyone.