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Equality in the green sector

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Manu Maunganidze, an outdoor educator and diversity consultant who sits on the board of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, shares insights on why equality must be at the heart of the green sector. Through his work, Manu has the opportunity to meet, debate, ask questions of a broad section of people involved in the green movement. His work covers issues including issues of unconscious bias in recruitment practice and community engagement.

History, almost as a rule, doesn’t look at itself in terms of eras. Nor do the people who live in those eras tend to spend too much energy on what word best fits their generation. A young man or woman leaving the land in search of a better in life in the city in late 18th century would not have considered himself to be a player in the Industrial Revolution – and, although it remains to be seen, our era may one day be described as “Globalisation”, “The Anthropocene” or “The Age of Mass Extinction”.

Whatever view we choose to take on climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and other key issues of our time, there is a definite sense that we have reached a crucial turning point in our collective history, our collective consciousness. Something is afoot, the elephant in the room has made himself shown, and we can no longer avoid his great heft. For most countries in the Global South, there is a sense that their opportunity at economic development, a la 19th and 20th century Europe and North America, is at risk. For those in the Global North, there is a small but fast-growing section of industry and society who are fully focused on re-inventing the technologies, modes of production and ways of acting that might just stop the elephant from expanding too far.

The core of my work as a diversity advisor in the green sector is based on this approach: As we create new industries (renewable energy, recycling methods, sustainable food and textile production etc.) are we genuinely asking ourselves the following questions?

  1. Who is negatively affected by the “good” work we are doing? Is this transition “just”?
  2. Who is getting an opportunity to be included in our push towards a more sustainable future?
  3. Are we seeking out talented people who represent the society we are trying to serve, recognising the potential value of their diverse realities and viewpoints?
  4. How can we acknowledge and start to undo patterns of inequality, colonialism and prejudice to create fairer workplaces and communities, fairer access to the wheel of self-determination?
  5. Are we investing, really investing in making sure our companies, charities, campaign groups and staff share a culture of inclusion?
  6. Are we recognising and amplifying good practice in all these areas (whilst resisting complacency)?

The fight to embed equality, diversity and inclusion into how we operate as we tackle the environmental challenges of our times has to begin with looking at our organisations closely, and asking “What needs to change for this organisation and its image to become one that truly serves its community?”

This is not just about diverse representation. It is about putting resources, effort and heart behind practical solutions to the problems of inequality. These efforts are often difficult and occasionally backfire, but if done carefully they can be a positive and invaluable learning experience for everyone involved.

That environmental companies score very low in many minority representation statistics both in Europe and North America is becoming well known. What do these stats tell us about who will be in senior management in these companies in 2030 and beyond, when these companies may well be large, power-wielding industry leaders?

If the environmental sector succeeds and becomes the mainstream, it can’t rightly applaud itself 10 or 20 years from now if it has failed to engage with all of society, not just those who currently understand and have a passion for the issues it represents. Let’s start that journey to a fairer future now. Together. It would be a wonderful co-benefit of responding to the “Environmental Crisis” if this era were to give birth to the “Era of Equality”.

I look forward to continuing the discussion with Bristol Green Capital Partnership members on these issues and potential solutions and best practice to improve diversity and inclusion. Please get in touch via contact@bristolgreencapital.org if you would like to continue the conversation or join us at The Watershed in Bristol on the 6th of February for the monthly Green Mingle where the main theme will be diversity and inclusion.

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