Diversity: The Cornerstone of a New Green Economy

February 26, 2021

By Salmata Kaba   WOMEN and BIPOC people have long faced the constant task of creating space for themselves within a greater entity. As the world begins to take more aggressive action to address the dire need for sustainability, it’s also becoming increasingly apparent that diversity will play a critical role in tackling this imperative. We can no longer create sustainable pockets that only benefit affluent communities. If we genuinely want to see the benefits of our sustainability efforts, we need to include more diverse voices, ideas, and beneficiaries into the working model.   A National Model   President Biden has so far shown that he gets it—he has selected a cabinet of incredibly accomplished, diverse climate leaders to tackle climate change at the national level. Michael Regan will lead the Environmental Protection Agency because of his crucial role in reducing the number of greenhouse gases produced in the energy sector in North Carolina. He has also elevated underserved and underrepresented voices in the first established Environmental Justice and Equity board. Brenda Mallory will lead the White House Center on Environmental Quality because of her notable work on advancing climate and environmental justice in the Southern States. With her leadership, CEQ could make crucial changes in climate and environmental justice at the state and local levels. Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearing has seen opposition from some Republicans, but her selection to lead the interior department alone represents a significant breakthrough. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and made history as one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress in 2018, and the National Congress of American Indians convened an emergency meeting that resulted in public urging for her immediate confirmation.   Other notable members of Biden’s climate team include Gina McCarthy, Jennifer Granholm, Ali Zaidi, John Kerry, Brian Deese, Pete Buttigieg, Janet Yellen, Tom Vilsack, Neera Tanden,  Gina Raimondo, Marty Walsh, and Marcia Fudge.   A Diverse Workforce is an Effective Workforce   Studies have shown a plethora of benefits of having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce. Diverse organizations have shown a 35% increase in profitability, 19% higher revenues due to innovation, a 26% increase in team collaboration, and an 18% increase in team commitment. Employee retention is 7% higher than less diverse companies, and, overall, diverse organizations make better decisions 87% of the time. Yet, diversity in many environmental and climate change organizations is still falling short, even as the progress diverse organizations have made to reach Net-Zero and become more sustainable is increasingly noteworthy.   According to Pryanka Banerjee, Inclusion/CEO & Co-Founder of BusinessWiz, the concept of sustainability consists of three pillars: economic, environmental, and social—also referred to as profit, planet, and people. She believes that sustainability can only happen if companies have a balance among all three pillars, and inclusion plays a big role in advancing that. Diversity is a key element in gaining perspectives from a variety of stakeholders, including end-users, the value-chain, and customers.   Inclusion and Impact Go Hand in Hand   The Sierra Club, an environmental protection organization established in 1892, has partnered with various organizations and campaigns to build a diverse, inclusive environmental justice movement. They boast a whopping 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. They have secured protection for 439 parks and monuments, won the passage of the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts, have put 281 coal plants on the path to replacement, and secured the right for every kid in America to visit a national park. Last year, they elected their first Latino President and long-time environmental policy and advocacy expert Ramón Cruz.   350.org is a global climate justice organization that links activists and organizations worldwide in the fight for a fossil-fuel-free future. They have come up with a three-step community-led renewable energy for all processes. First, accelerate the transition to a new, just clean energy economy by supporting community-led energy solutions. Second, halt and ban all oil, coal, gas projects from being built through local resolutions and community resistance. Third, cut off the social license and financing for fossil fuel companies by divesting, de-sponsoring and defunding. Together their work has led to canceled pipelines and coal plants.   “We are creating access and allowing resources to go where they are needed, said 350.org North American Director Tamara Toles O’ Laughlin. “The longtime arc of environmental work has been exclusive and extractive and really painful for people who just want to be able to protect where they live…Diversity will show up if we include people because they live there because they’re impacted because they have expertise because they ask good questions.”     Want to learn more about what it takes to be part of a diverse green workforce? Watch for our March Green Careers event.