‘Recalcitrant’ on Diversity

‘Recalcitrant’ on Diversity

Green 2.0 Releases ‘Transparency Card’ on NGOs,
Rebukes Oceana, Pew for Refusing to Participate

The latest breakdown of the racial and ethnic composition of the top 40 non-governmental environmental organizations was delivered by Green 2.0 on Thursday with a rebuke of two leading institutions, Oceana and Pew Charitable Trusts, for refusing to provide demographic data.

“It’s almost inexplicable in 2017 that modern, sophisticated organizations in the business of helping people aren’t willing to provide basic demographic data on race and ethnicity,” said Robert Raben, president and founder of Green 2.0, an independent advocacy campaign to increase diversity among environmental groups. “We call on them to come around and do so.”

Green 2.0 issued a “Transparency Card,” showing the racial and ethnic breakdown of staff, leadership and board membership of the top 40 green NGOs, based on a ranking of grant dollars received. Green 2.0 has collected demographic data from 32 organizations on that list, via GuideStar, a leading compiler of information on nonprofit organizations.

The latest data shows that people of color comprise 27 percent of full-time staff, 15 percent of senior leadership, and 22 percent of board members at environmental NGOs. Green 2.0 said the numbers, as of April 1, 2017, show progress but also that the green sector remains “overwhelmingly white.” Ethic and racial groups represent about 38 percent of the country’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Click here to view Green 2.0 Transparency Card.

In addition to Oceana and Pew, the other organizations that have not provided demographic data include Alaska Wilderness League, Conservation International, Partnership Project, Root Capital, World Resources Institute, and Population Action International. Those organizations have reasonable explanations – usually that they either are working to collect the information or do not yet track their diversity data, according to Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0. Pew and Oceana stand apart for their outright refusal to participate or discuss their reasons, Tome said.

Green 2.0 first convened in 2013 and has been issuing annual appeals for demographic data. This has been enough time to understand the focus and importance of the mission, Tome said in a phone interview, “and at this point as an organization we feel you can step up with the rest of your colleagues and be transparent about that.”

Raben called Pew’s lack of cooperation “genuinely head-scratching” because of its otherwise positive record on environmental and anti-poverty efforts.

Oceana is an international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation. Pew is a global research and policy nonprofit that lists the environment as among its areas of focus. Communications departments were reached for comment at both organizations right after the announcement by Green 2.0 via teleconference on Thursday morning; neither responded by end of business.

Several non-governmental environmental organizations were praised by Green 2.0 for their diversity efforts. Green for All, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Nature Conservancy, Greenpeace, and EarthJustice “come immediately to mind because they’ve made an internal commitment, whether it started with a diversity committee or diversity, equity and inclusion officers, and they’re implementing programs and projects on a regular basis,” Tome said. “They’re making great strides.”

Green 2.0 has been at the leading edge of a movement to better connect communities of color to the environment and its various concerns, including climate change. Fueling that movement is concern that the traditional, mainstream green sector is largely white and aging out while the rapidly changing demographics of the U.S. population builds to a projected non-white majority.

The work of organizations such as Green 2.0 has pushed the League of Conservation Voters to adjust its mission and overhaul its recruitment and hiring practices, according to Jennifer Allen, the organization’s senior vice-president for community and civic engagement. She said the organization was “very intentional” in increasing its backing of women candidates and candidates of color for public office in 2016. Among its political endorsements last year, 40 percent were women and 30 percent were people of color, Allen added.

Green 2.0 will in the near future up the ante on its monitoring efforts with a system of grading progress on diversity by environmental organizations. The grades will take into account demographic data as well as implementation of best practices for diversity, equity and inclusion. The “Transparency Card” is a complement to Beyond Diversity: A Roadmap To Building An Inclusive Organization, a report by Dr. Maya Beasley of the University of Connecticut that was released by Green 2.0 in December. The report is a comprehensive collection of best practices for organizations to improve their readiness, recruitment, and retention of people of color to catalyze systemic change in the movement.

The organization continues to hold out hope that the progress report will include the likes of Oceana and Pew.

“We will double down on those who are recalcitrant, even obdurate in their unwillingness to work with us,” Raben vowed.