Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice at NRDC
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at NRDC
NRDC believes in an environmental movement that, at its core, seeks justice. We know that the scope and scale of the climate crisis demands a broad, equitable, and diverse environmental movement—and that we can, and must, do more to support and foster such a movement. We believe this change starts inside NRDC, with our internal culture, and extends to how we show up in our work externally. We are working hard to put our values into practice—and we are committed. Here’s how we’re getting started.
Embedding Equity into Our Work
Embedding Equity into Our Work
- We are shifting our work to put people first in what we do—improving people’s livelihoods as a central part of our objectives and strategies, and working to support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the United States and around the world. For example, our litigation team is strengthening its investment in equity and justice litigation, working to support and investigate cases as well as litigate on behalf of frontline and marginalized communities and underrepresented groups.
- In 2017, NRDC launched our Equity Initiative, developed in partnership with Race Forward, an organization that focuses on diversity work and change management. This collaborative, institution-wide effort sought to systematically integrate equity across NRDC’s substantive advocacy work. It culminated in the creation of our Equity Tool, which guides the development of all substantive advocacy work, as well as mandatory staff-wide workshops around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and how it intersects with NRDC’s work.
- In 2020, we required all advocacy and litigation staff to develop and adopt DEI plans for their areas. These plans are now actively guiding our work and decisions.
- In 2021, we established a new Science Office that will exemplify equity-centered science practiced in partnership with, and in service of, communities and the environment; use science and analysis to embed equity in our work; and partake in community-engaged research, data science, analysis, and innovation.
- In 2021, we established our Environment, Equity & Justice Center to help integrate equity into NRDC’s advocacy and partnerships and enhance NRDC’s ability to advance community-driven solutions in partnership with frontline communities.
- Since 2020, we have been more intentional in our cultivation of new Board members from BIPOC backgrounds who represent a range of experience, from finance to international development to environmental justice. Additionally, the Board undertook a four-part anti-racism training series for all Trustees and the executive staff through June 2021 in partnership with the Perception Institute. The Board has also undertaken the following steps:
- Initiated the process of embedding DEI values in the charter and annual work plans of every committee and task force.
- Commenced a pilot mentorship program for new Board members that involves a Board mentor and a staff buddy.
Creating Partnerships for Change
Creating Partnerships for Change
- Throughout our work, we seek to support frontline communities with our legal, technical, and scientific capacities to advance community-driven solutions and develop trusting, authentic partnerships.
- We are adopting a practice of entering into memoranda of agreement (MOAs) to mutually agree upon and memorialize the commitments and principles guiding our partnerships. The MOAs, designed to enhance accountability and trust, include terms on fundraising, mutual credit, conflict resolution, and data sharing/ownership.
- We regularly evaluate our approach to partnerships and strive to learn from our mistakes. NRDC staff are developing case studies based on actual partnerships to evaluate how we’ve held true to our partnership principles and where we’ve fallen short. NRDC will use these case studies to inform changes to our partnership practices and as a training tool for staff.
- We will dedicate at least $20 million of NRDC’s Bezos Earth Fund grant to partners, including funds dedicated to BIPOC-led and -centered groups. This includes supporting pooled grassroots funds that will build the field and help less-resourced organizations to achieve our jointly held goals. We are creating the committees, accounting systems, and principles to guide that institutional giving.
- To date in 2021, we have committed more than $3.3 million in grants to four environmental networks over two years, including pooled funds for the grassroots. NRDC is also supporting additional partners at the project level.
- We are hiring a director of partner fundraising to lead NRDC’s efforts to raise funds for and build the capacity of our partners, especially those that are under-resourced.
- We provided rapid, small capacity grants to grassroots organizations through NRDC’s Movement Support Fund. Between 2017–21, this fund approved more than 50 grants to over 40 organizations—totaling $400,000 in grants.
- We are encouraging our funders and donors to make direct contributions to BIPOC-led, environmental justice, and place-based organizations by making introductions to key program officers and providing technical assistance where requested.
“We’re demanding an end to policies that entrench environmental racism.”
A commercial fisherman for 50 years and counting in Bristol Bay, Alaska Native Pete Andrew Jr. has been an instrumental voice in the fight against the destructive Pebble Mine project.
“Thankfully, our actions worked. Newark has come a long way to provide a brighter future for its children, and this settlement will ensure the job is finished.”
Unsafe Water More Common in Communities of Color
When it comes to safe drinking water in America, race still matters.
“Black and brown kids know the environmental field is a field to work in. It's somewhere they can be paid and enrich themselves like I have.”
“For many years, Chevron has been polluting not just the air, the environment, and people’s bodies. It’s been polluting democracy.”
“We needed the community to all come together to make a healthy market, the vision and mission rooted within the community that we want to serve.”
Evolving Our Internal Culture
Evolving Our Internal Culture
- In 2020, we hired a chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer and established NRDC’s Office of DEI. This position reports to the president, and the office is now staffed with three additional employees.
- The DEI Office is developing an organization-wide strategic plan for DEI and an institution-wide DEI learning strategy to support our staff in integrating DEI practices into all aspects of our culture and work. We have also made DEI competence and compliance an express part of our performance management process.
- We are evaluating and improving our hiring, retention, and promotion processes to ensure that our practices are equitable and inclusive and lead to a more vibrant and diverse NRDC. This includes revamping our internship program to help diversify the pipeline of talent and engaging a consulting firm to help us specifically focus on retaining Black and brown staff at NRDC. We are also building partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions, including a litigation fellowship with Howard University.
- The DEI Office is working with staff to form Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that create support and community for our staff with similar backgrounds, experiences, and/or interests that will help us fulfill our commitment to foster an inclusive work environment.
What Is Environmental Justice?
BIPOC communities across America pay the highest price for environmental justice issues brought upon by polluters.
Racial Injustice: Why We Need to Act Now
How social, political, and economic inequities lead to environmental injustice in a passionate speech about the hurdles communities of color continue to fight every day.
“Climate change...is the product of racism. The fossil fuel industry was literally built on the backs and over the graves of Indigenous people around the globe, as they were forced off their land and either slaughtered or subjugated.”
“In terms of the climate crisis and its effects on health, the data are either missing for [Asian Americans], crudely lumped together, or excluded from considerations...to begin with.”
“While it is good that cities adopt green interventions, this can lead to gentrification and displacement, given our racially and structurally unjust planning practices and policies.”
“At a time when we’re experiencing heightened xenophobia and bigotry, it’s more important now than ever to be visible, to be proud, and to show off our Latinidad. Because that in itself is an act of resistance.”
“If the goal is to create a truly just and sustainable society, social policy must be seen as a necessary component to addressing environmental and climate crises.”
“Even now, [environmental injustice] is my lived experience—the trash incinerator and all the pollution and detriment that it’s caused to this community for decades, one I've lived in for quite some time now myself.”
How Climate Change Impacts Women
Women are disproportionately affected by climate change all over the world.