DSI: An inclusive community

27th November 2023

Caris Graham explains how the Diverse Sustainability Initiative came about.

Welcome to the first article from the Diverse Sustainability Initiative (DSI). For those unfamiliar with the DSI, I’m thrilled to offer you a warm introduction. For those who have followed the DSI’s journey, this is a reminder of the strides we’ve made.

I’m Caris and I joined IEMA in August 2021, following a career in the civil service and a stint in equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) consulting. My passion revolves around nurturing inclusive environments, where each individual experiences a profound sense of belonging and safety. This commitment is deeply personal, as I, too, have encountered barriers prior to joining IEMA.

The genesis of DSI began in 2017 when the Policy Exchange report, The Two Sides of Diversity, revealed that the environmental profession was the second-least diverse out of 202 UK professions. That shocking statistic and the realisation of the urgent need for change led to the birth of the DSI. Under the leadership of IEMA CEO Sarah Mukherjee MBE, its initial aim was to raise awareness about the industry’s diversity deficit to urge organisations to join as partners and to publicly commit to improving these statistics. We hold our partners to account by requesting updates on their commitments.

Our initiative has since undergone a transformation, marked by an agency called The Better Org, which carried out research and conversations with partners that led us to creating a new strategy, vision and mission, all accessible on our website. In October 2021, we launched the People of Colour Network. It began as an inclusive community for people of colour working with our partner organisations. It has since evolved into an open network for anyone in the environment and sustainability profession identifying as a person of colour.

This community convenes monthly for casual coffee chats, providing a safe space to address barriers.

Additionally, quarterly formal meetings, led by Sarah Mukherjee MBE, offer a structured platform for vital discussions. The network also has a Microsoft Teams channel for members to connect and an anonymous form for discreet inquiries or suggestions, or to express concerns, which we can then address as a group.

In 2023, we introduced the LGBTQIA+ Network, designed to operate in a manner similar to the People of Colour Network. Our vision includes continued growth, with the potential of opening them up to allies, fostering support for marginalised individuals within the profession.

Throughout 2023, our focus has been on education. IEMA has provided funding to external agencies to conduct workshops and webinars on various EDI topics. These resources have been instrumental in addressing the concerns of our partners and network members. Furthermore, our partners actively share their best practice and improvement methods through webinars, encouraging a culture of learning. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution in EDI, and our initiative embraces the ongoing learning journey.

Participation in our initiative is open to any organisation or consultant within the profession. There are no membership fees for partners; we simply ask for a public commitment to champion diversity. Partners are encouraged to take an active role by offering funding or resources, engaging in discussions or contributing insightful commentary and observations to support our cause.

Those not officially affiliated as partners can also make a difference through amplifying our work and networks, dedicating time to volunteer or by sharing resources. Your contributions, no matter the size, are vital in our collective endeavour to foster EDI within the sustainability profession.

A force for transformation

The Diverse Sustainability Initiative is not just another initiative; it’s a tranformative force that unites professionals from various backgrounds in a collective effort to create an inclusive, equitable and diverse sustainability profession.

Keep an eye out for further details across our print and digital channels. And to explore the ways in which you can participate and support our initiative as a partner or an individual advocate, please email: [email protected]


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