A broad church

1st March 2019

Globe istock 493886429

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Corporate Social Responsibility ,
  • Society


Alice Davis

Craig Bennett makes the case for truly diverse and representative environmental movement

The environmental crisis has never been more urgent. This is why, as chief executive of Friends of the Earth, I am committed to diversifying the movement: only by all of us working together can we fix this crisis.

We started by looking internally, improving recruitment processes to make sure the agencies we use are genuine about attracting people who the sector historically hasn't done a lot to interest. This means targeted advertising, and for more senior positions, support, encouragement and guidance during the recruitment process. This has led to more equal gender representation at every level, with slightly more women than men overall. We have also increased BAME representation, although we know we still have a way to go before we are fully representative.

The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are all fundamental elements of life; logically, nobody should feel that the environmental cause is not a movement or sector for them. However, it would be disingenuous to ignore a certain white, middle-class bias within the sector. I don't want to accept this; I want to make the fight for a healthy planet everyone's cause. When I first started in this role, I said the environmental movement needed to engage more fully with the UK's BAME and working-class populations. We've got to make it relevant to people's lives. It's up to us to find out where support and commonality might lie – because it is there. We've seen success when the environmental movement engages with parts of society that are not traditionally seen as 'greenies': look at Forest Green Rovers, the vegan football team that was promoted to the Football League for the first time in its history in 2017. Why should anyone think football players and supporters won't be interested in issues of sustainability?

Certain blinkered ways of thinking have got to be interrogated, and knowing when you're not personally best placed is why we use agencies, where necessary, to make sure we are reaching the right people. That can be people who haven't always felt included or valued by the movement in the past.

This is especially relevant when it comes to younger people. I first joined Friends of the Earth when I was 14, but back then I was a bit of an exception. That's why I am incredibly proud that we are supporting an ambitious movement to get this generation's voices heard in the current debates around the environment.

My World My Home is part of a programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund and is made up of 31 youth-led projects UK-wide that give young people the skills to improve their local environments. It could be about cutting food waste or tackling marine pollution: the point is to make a tangible change to where you live while learning campaigning skills. Not only are we engaging a new generation to care about the environment, though – they are a more diverse group of people, too. During the past three years, almost as many people from non-white backgrounds have taken part as people from white backgrounds. I don't think tomorrow's leaders will come from traditional avenues into campaigning, and it's this kind of grassroots movement that will lead to meaningful representation.

This ethos carries over to paid staff: one of my key criteria in the selection of the recruitment agency I mentioned was how well it integrated diversity objectives into the process. We added a dedicated researcher to the recruitment process with a remit to undertake searches focused on individuals from under-represented groups. They have committed to provide evidence about who they are speaking to in their search reports and in longlists and shortlists. This cost us a bit more money, but it was the right thing to do to ensure we weren't working in an echo chamber.

Beyond the moral and legal responsibilities that employers have, there is a logical reason: an inclusive environmental movement, with a diverse and representative range of people working together, will lead to better outcomes for the planet. That's what the world needs if we are going to deal with the climate crisis. Only by being more representative can we secure environmental justice for all.

Craig Bennett is chief executive officer of Friends of the Earth

Image credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Despite cost-of-living concerns, four-fifths of shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced or sourced goods, a global survey has found.

16th May 2024

Read more

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Each person in the UK throws a shocking 35 items of unwanted clothes and textiles into general waste every year on average, according to a new report from WRAP.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close