It’s just a start, necessary and long overdue

A February report shows green NGOs are adding diversity, but still have a long way to go

The callous killing of George Floyd by a white police officer; the shooting of Breonna Taylor in her bed by police executing a no-knock warrant; the pursuit and murder of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery by white vigilantes; a white woman calling police to intimidate black birder Christian Cooper, who asked her to follow Central Park dog leash rules. The confluence of these widely reported events makes it impossible to ignore how different the lives of black people in America are from mine. I understand better what white privilege means. And how important it is to see and understand other experiences.

The environmental movement has been, and remains, overwhelmingly white. Environmental organizations are increasingly aware that they need to include more diverse voices if they are to build support, and even if they are to understand the full range, scope, and consequences of the environmental challenges we face. Yet many have been slow to increase their own diversity, and form genuine partnerships with communities of color.

It’s good to know that there’s a watchdog organization to hold their (I should say our, since I consider myself an environmentalist and have worked with and supported a variety of environmental organizations) feet to this crucial fire. Green 2.0, founded in 2014, tracks the demographics, hiring practices, and organizational culture of major environmental organizations and their funders.

Green 2.0 issued its latest report in February, tracking the staff demographics of 40 major environmental NGOs. The good news:  both senior staff and board diversity increased at green organizations from 2017 to 2019. The bad news: the percentage of people of color in those positions is still barely over 20%. And, unfortunately, most green foundations are simply not reporting their demographics.

In response to the Floyd killing and other recent events, many green groups are making strong public statements about their commitment to racial equity and environmental justice. Here’s hoping they follow up from the inside out. And that organizations like Green 2.0 hold them to account.

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About Holly

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

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