In celebration of diversity

1st February 2024

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Caris Graham (she/her) is Diverse Sustainability Initiative officer at IEMA

Professionals from across the environment and sustainability sector came together in London for the Diverse Sustainability Initiative’s (DSI) first in-person meeting on 22 November, an event kindly hosted by Bates Wells.

Organised by IEMA and chaired by its CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, the aim of the event was to create a tapestry of connection, learning and advocacy, all woven under the banner of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Drawing together a diverse cohort of around 30 attendees, it marked a significant stride towards fostering collaboration and support within the environmental profession. The day was filled with enlightening workshops, updates on the People of Colour and LGBTQIA+ networks, plus some valuable insights and networking opportunities.

The event’s core purpose resonated with the heartbeat of EDI: the mission to connect partners and networks and cultivate a nurturing, inclusive and diverse profession. The day began with a compelling keynote address by Kyle Hefford, a solicitor at Bates Wells, who delved into the legal nuances of equality within organisations, emphasising its profound importance.

As well as catering for DSI partners, the event embraced the People of Colour and LGBTQIA+ network members, reflecting the broad audience it aims to serve. Partners including CEOs, human resources professionals and EDI leads participated in a discussion on ‘safer organisational spaces and anti-oppressive practices’, facilitated by Lou Chiu, an external EDI consultant.

Self Space, an organisation specialising in therapy, also delivered a session on ‘rewriting our narratives’ to the People of Colour and LGBTQIA+ networks. This explored the significance of managing inner voices, especially when facing imposter syndrome and other barriers unique to those from underrepresented backgrounds.

Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive. One member said: “It opened my eyes to the impact that being from an underrepresented background has had on me; the workshop was very impactful, and I felt that I wasn’t alone.” Another participant, a DSI partner, said: “The DSI worked as an amazing facilitator of change. I feel that I have learned so much from not only the workshops but by connecting and hearing what others are doing in this space.”

Combined with the keynote speaker and valuable networking, the event left an indelible impression, cultivating a collective recognition of the pivotal role of EDI in the workplace.

A significant takeaway was the undeniable power of face-to-face connection. In an era increasingly dominated by digital interactions, this gathering served as an important reminder of the deep impact personal connections can have in advancing the cause of EDI. Emotional moments shared during the event underscored the continuing need for dedicated efforts in creating inclusive spaces.

IEMA has acknowledged the transformative impact of hosting such a crucial event in person. The intention is for this to become an annual tradition, open to all DSI partners and members of the People of Colour and LGBTQIA+ networks. For those interested in joining as a partner or participating in one of the networks, detailed information can be found on the DSI website. The success of the first face-to-face event not only strengthens the commitment to EDI within the community, but also highlights the potential for future collaborations and growth.

In conclusion, the DSI’s networking and workshops event was a celebration of diversity, a platform for education and a testament to the transformative power of human connection. As he community sets its sights on the future, this event has left us more eager to create a more inclusive environmental profession.

“The event’s core purpose resonated with the heartbeat of EDI: the mission to cultivate an inclusive and diverse profession”

Caris Graham (she/her) is Diverse Sustainability Initiative officer at IEMA


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