Transparency Talk

Category: "Equity" (2 posts)

Is the Environmental Movement Still #SoWhite? Learning from the 2019 Green 2.0 Transparency Report Card
March 12, 2020

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Whitney Tome

Whitney Tome is the executive director of Green 2.0, which advocates for improved diversity, equity, and inclusion in the mainstream environmental movement.  

As environmental disasters from the recent wildfires in Australia and California to the growing intensity of tropical storms increase, environmental work takes on heightened urgency. We know that crises such as wildfires, rising sea levels, poor water, and air quality disproportionally impact people of color and vulnerable communities, so it’s important that the movement for improving our environment be accessible, welcoming, and open to all.

Since its inception in 2014, Green 2.0 has pioneered accountability measures for the #DiversifyGreen movement writ large. Through our annual Transparency Report Cards, we’ve exposed some of the worst actors within the top 40 environmental NGO’s and foundations while praising those who’ve demonstrated true commitments to diversity with their hiring practices. Our work has been instrumental in putting the spotlight on the glaring diversity issues within the environmental movement, and as a consequence, we’ve seen folks make substantive progress.

Though the diversity statistics for 2019 are encouraging, it is far too premature to declare victory. Some of the top foundations and organizations in this space who claim to be major, influential players, perpetuate a double standard—asking their grantees for their data and equity efforts while not providing their own.

This kind of hypocrisy is not just a glaring weakness, but it needs to be understood as an obstacle to making the kind of progress and impact these organizations seek to make.

"Opportunity, accountability, and intentionality are three pillars that funders and nonprofits alike must stand on."

Let us be clear—opportunity, accountability, and intentionality are three pillars that funders and nonprofits alike must stand on. Environmental leaders cannot afford to lose sight of the significance of diversity at a time when this movement needs greater unity and coordination of resources than ever before. There is too much at stake. Especially for our most vulnerable communities.

Inaction is inexcusable. And data can move people to action. This is why we publish these diversity statistics each year. With the critical support, leadership, and thought-partnership of Guidestar by Candid and Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson, our report cards and data analysis are produced with great care and efficacy because these organizations, like every organization, must be held accountable.

Based on our 2019 findings, we urge leaders in the environmental movement to adopt the following recommendations: Green2.0_logo-NEW

  1. More organizations in the funder sector of the movement need to report their data. As it stands, so few foundations have reported that Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson simply could not make an apples-to-apples comparison of which sector is excelling more rapidly. It is clear that NGOs excel in reporting data and are making strides, and while we assume foundations are making less progress due to lack of commitment to even report data, we simply cannot know for sure. What is clear is that data reporting signals external commitment and reinforces internal resolve to remove barriers to diversity that exist in persistently white organizations.
  2. Leaders must be thoughtful about how the opportunity to diversify manifests differently at different levels of their organizations. For example, while senior staff numbers have increased slightly in this year’s report, leaders have to consider whether that is sustainable if C-Suite professionals stay longer and their organizations are not expanding the number of senior staff positions. When senior positions do open, pushing search professionals to deliver truly diverse slates is an urgent necessity, and underscores the importance of having good data to back up the need. Evidence for the importance of tracking demographic data and using it to advocate for greater inclusion can be seen in the growing diversity of boards noted in this year’s report.
  3. Listen to young people. As we’ve seen, despite their lack of representation in the public sphere, young people are already building separate lanes of influence on climate change. Their leadership, messaging, and organizing strategies are noticeably more inclusive and racially diverse than the institutions that comprise the wider movement. They are nimble and rapidly responsive, in part, because they are the communities they are trying to save.

    "Inaction is inexcusable. And data can move people to action."

While we have faith that the longstanding, mainstream environmental movement will challenge itself to push the envelope on inclusivity, we implore the recalcitrant organizations to step forward and pledge to do better today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Because many brown and Black communities just don’t have the time.

When Numbers Fall Short: The Challenge of Measuring Diversity in a Global Context
January 16, 2020

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Bama Athreya

Bama Athreya is the Gender and Social Inclusion Advisor at the C&A Foundation, a corporate foundation committed to making fashion a force for good and transforming the industry to be more sustainable and provide decent livelihoods.  

At C&A Foundation we believe many of the challenges we seek to tackle are rooted in social exclusion. We are on a journey to deepen our approach to gender justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As part of our own effort to learn, we recently undertook a demographic survey of our 60+ employees worldwide to find out how “diverse” we are as an organization and what it might imply for our efforts to create an equitable organization. It was a first for us and we learned far more than the numbers alone revealed.

The process itself was both eye-opening and humbling. It forced us to reflect on what really matters for our global organization when it comes to diversity and it revealed some of our own implicit biases.

"We believe many of the challenges we seek to tackle are rooted in social exclusion."

We worked with US-based consultants to prepare the survey—covering age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, disability, race, religion, and educational status. Unknowingly, the very act of selecting these categories imposed a US-centric world view, particularly with respect to our understanding of race and ethnicity.

For example, the category “Latinx” was used in the initial survey; this category is very relevant in the US, but reductive in Latin America, confusing in Europe, and irrelevant in South Asia. An important category for Europe—Roma—was not available for selection.

So we tried again, re-surveying our country offices in an attempt to create meaningful country-specific data. This proved far more useful in revealing what we should be considering as we seek to foster an inclusive workplace culture.

In Brazil, for example, race is a very salient concept and we are developing a much stronger understanding of why power dynamics around race may be the single most important thing we can address in that context. Less than half the Brazilian population is white —yet, political and economic structures are predominantly controlled by whites.

In Mexico, we need to consider the significant proportion of indigenous people and “mestizos” (mixed ethnicity). Although Mexicans of European descent are the minority there, they too remain a dominant political and economic class. In India, race itself is a problematic construct. Instead, caste discrimination has played a powerful role in reinforcing social group dominance and oppression for centuries. A dizzying array of ethno-linguistic groups suggests diversity but masks the real and sometimes violent social exclusion based on caste and religion. While historically disadvantaged “scheduled” castes and tribes make up around 25 percent of India’s population, they are significantly under-represented in the country’s economic life.

And throughout South Asia, religion is a political and social flashpoint. This applies to Bangladesh, a majority Muslim country where Hindus and Christians face increasing sectarian violence, as well as India, where, as recent events show, laws and policies excluding Muslims reflect rising Hindu nationalism.

Since C&A Foundation always aims to be open and transparent, it is our practice to openly share what we learn from our research, and this exercise was no exception. However, in the end, due to the importance of country and cultural context, the only demographic categories we felt were appropriate to include in our annual report were gender, disability, and migration status. Age is another context-neutral category we might report globally in the future. But for our 60 staff people spread across the world, we realized that inclusive hiring, promotion and retention policies needed to do more than just look at the numbers, even for these categories.

So what did we learn, and what do we suggest to other foundations undertaking similar surveys?

First, generic global surveys aren’t the best way to tackle region-specific diversity and inclusion challenges. Instead, start with a social inclusion assessment that looks at the local context. Who has power? Who is marginalized? From there you can craft context-specific demographic questions for your employees or your partners.

Lesson two: don’t just play the numbers game. With, at most, a dozen staff in any given country office, we found there is limited value in trying to add them all up to some global statistic on diversity. However, it is important to look at who’s not present in your workplace. For example, in Brazil, we’ve taken affirmative steps to recruit more Afro-Brazilians by hiring a consultancy specialized in searching for Afro-Brazilian professionals. And we are looking carefully at how to create more inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities across all of our country offices. For us, this kind of targeting does more to address diversity than a broad-brush effort.

"It is important to look at who’s not present in your workplace."

Finally, another value of this approach is that you are leading by example to your grantees since you likely ask them to provide you with their own demographic data. Just as we realize the limitations to what we do with this data, we can understand and respect the variety of approaches that our grantees may take to tackle their own specific diversity, equity and inclusion challenges. At C&A Foundation we see our efforts to address inequality as another means to encourage our local grantees to prioritize and embrace their own equity and inclusion agendas. This is where our broader influence may lie—and offers a further compelling reason to continue our own internal journey.

 

In 2020, C&A Foundation`s work in fashion will become part of Laudes Foundation - a new, independent foundation designed to support brave initiatives that will inspire and challenge industry to harness its power for good. The organization will works both to influence capital so that investment encourages good business practices, and through industry to tackle its deep and systemic challenges.

Laudes Foundation is a part of the Brenninkmeijer family enterprise, next to the COFRA  businesses and the family’s other private philanthropic activities, including Porticus, Good Energies Foundation, and Argidius Foundation.

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