Landmark ethnic diversity route map unveiled for environmental sector

6th October 2022


Web diverse group of walkers credit i Stock 1350645291

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IEMA

A landmark route map has been launched that sets out key steps for environmental charities to boost ethnic diversity in the next five years. The move follows the release of figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that only 4.81% of environment professionals are people of colour, compared to 12.64% of the overall workforce.

A total of 42 organisations immediately pledged to deliver key actions between 2023 and 2027 as outlined in the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Route map towards greater ethnic diversity – the first of its kind in the environmental sector. Devised by diversity and leadership specialists Full Colour, the route map follows extensive research and engagement with 2,000 professionals and staff across the environment sector, including people of colour, chief executives, board members, and equality and diversity specialists.

The research conducted last year revealed huge appetite for change on diversity, but low levels of action. Of the 44 environment organisations surveyed, 84% had considered the issues or taken some action but did not have a specific diversity action plan. Only 4% had an action plan that they consistently implemented. A total of 86% of leaders felt that increasing ethnic diversity should be a top or high priority for the environment sector, but only 22% felt that it is currently a priority.

Initial research conducted in 2021 revealed “concerning findings”, Wildlife and Countryside Link acknowledged; in particular, all people of colour surveyed said that there was racism and unconscious bias in the sector, as well as a major perception gap between senior leaders and staff when it came to how well organisations are encouraging diversity.

The route map sets out action in four key areas: culture, transparency, action against racism, and organisational plans and practices. These actions range from the routine incorporation of ethnic diversity terms and definitions and establishment of internal responsibilities on diversity, to enhanced monitoring, reporting and enforcement on racism. It also outlines joint actions that the sector should take to bridge gaps in capacity and experience, particularly for smaller organisations with less resources. These include sector-wide training to ‘de-bias’ recruitment and development, in-depth research on racism in the sector, diversity and anti-racism training, a programme to bring more people of colour into leadership roles, and peer learning circles on best and emerging practice.

The report also recommends regular monitoring and benchmarking of diversity, which is already underway through The Race Report, a UK-wide racial reporting initiative for the environment sector that will be released early next year.

"Too many people feel excluded from nature and too many people still feel excluded from the nature sector,” said Wildlife and Countryside Link chief executive Richard Benwell. “People want to be part of an inclusive, diverse and socially progressive movement. They know that saving nature will depend on the talents and energy of everyone working together.

“Despite this conviction, many organisations are still in the starting blocks on diversity and inclusion. The aim of the route map is to empower the movement to change and to hold ourselves to account to ensure it happens.”

The development of the route map was funded by Natural England, the John Ellerman Foundation, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

The organisations committed to the route map are Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, the Bat Conservation Trust, Born Free, British Canoeing, the British Ecological Society, Buglife, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, the Campaign For National Parks, ChemTrust, the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Client Earth, CPRE, Earthwatch, the Forest Stewardship Council, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, the Institute of Fisheries Management, the John Muir Trust, the League Against Cruel Sports, the National Trust, Natural England, On The Edge Conservation, the People's Trust For Endangered Species, Plantlife, the Rivers Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Soil Association, Surfers Against Sewage, Sustain, the Conservation Volunteers, Waterwise, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, WildFish, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Wildlife and Countryside Link, the Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust, the Youth Hostels Association, and the Zoological Society of London.

Image credit | iStock

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