Our News

On Tackling Inequality

June 2020 by Dave Coleman

Like so many, we’ve seen the callous killing of George Floyd and felt shocked and horrified.

And we’ve watched the groundswell of peaceful protests against the daily systemic discrimination against Black people, and expressed our support and solidarity as individuals and as an organisation.

However, within our organisation, we have been discussing how, in our field of sustainability and climate change solutions, we can do something more concrete to address the lack of Black voices and the lack of representation in our field.

We started out by shutting up.

Whilst we recognise that silence is complicity, in the first days of the current Black Lives Matters protests we felt it was beholden on us to make a clear statement of solidarity and support through all our social media channels, and then be quiet.

Partly this was to listen and learn.

As an organisation, we are diverse in gender, orientation and origin, but we are not diverse in terms of ethnicity. We recognise our white privilege and therefore, like others, wanted to stop ‘broadcasting’ to leave the airwaves clear for Black voices to be heard all the more loudly at such a critical time.

However, as we said at that time, we had already met as an organisation. We had already discussed what positive steps we could take ourselves, within our reach and range of influence, to improve diversity, equality and representation of Black people. And we had talked about what our own small contribution to reduce prejudice (including perhaps, through sheer ignorance, our own), and directly address systemic racism, could be.

So here’s what we are doing:

1: Thinking about ourselves firstly as an organisation with some reach in the world of climate change and sustainability, we are working to quickly develop some learning content that we can share with our CL network as part of Carbon Literacy that addresses the facts that:

  • Climate change is fundamentally a discriminatory phenomenon in the developed world, but in the developing world in particular.
  • Climate change discriminates against Black and minority ethnic communities, who are historically the least responsible for its causes, and the most disproportionately affected by its negative impacts.
  • Black and minority ethnic communities are disproportionately under-represented in the sustainability movement and industry, and therefore in formulating the solutions to the problems which affect them.
  • Fundamentally racism, discrimination, climate change and other societal problems, are expressions of a lack of respect for the people that we live with and the places that we live.

This material should be assembled by us and people belonging to Black and minority ethnic communities, working together.

We will then use our reach to make these materials available to our network of people and organisations delivering climate change solutions through Carbon Literacy, via our ‘Pioneers’ trainer network, our online resources, our course-kit, our blogs and otherwise.

We will also focus more clearly on the existing equity requirements of the Carbon Literacy Standard when accrediting courses and demand clearer and deeper addressing of the issues surround race and climate change in the Carbon Literacy training we accredit.

2: As a team, within Cooler and The Carbon Literacy Project, we will undertake a series of actions to address our own diversity, and attempt to improve the representation of Black and minority ethnic communities in our areas of responsibility and influence:

  • We will engage with our trustees to seek to address issues of BAME representation on our Board.
  • We will also work with our university partners to seek to recruit a more diverse range of volunteers from schools, colleges and universities.

This initiative is particularly important as the majority of our paid workforce started out by initially volunteering with us. It was the volunteering experience that gave them access to a paid role when it became available, and ultimately gave them access to a paid career in sustainability. If Black and minority ethnic people don’t have access to, or for whatever reason (lack of role model, lack of financial means to undertake voluntary work) cannot or choose not to take such opportunities, the pool of volunteers from which we recruit our paid staff and who benefit from all the opportunities that brings, is all the narrower.

  • We will seek to engage with networks and student groups within universities and work to recruit a more diverse range of volunteers.
  • We will also approach BAME networks we already know, and work with them to encourage their members to more widely publicise opportunities to volunteer or to work with us, to help us to recruit more volunteers from within their communities.
  • We will also directly seek sources of funding to offer financial assistance to Black and minority ethnic communities who, for reason of means or background, might not otherwise be able to undertake unpaid volunteering work.
  • We will also seek to work with BAME communities directly, to collaborate to promote the understanding of climate change and how it affects Black and minority ethnic communities, and, to help those communities formulate responses and solutions of their own.

None of this is an immediate panacea or something that we can just do or immediately fix today, but it’s a journey that we have already sincerely begun, and work that we’re going to put into greater effect over the next couple of months.

We feel this is a longer, deeper, more meaningful and respectful response to the killing of George Floyd, and to the ongoing oppression of Black people. It is the beginning of a process, not a glib answer, and, we feel, the beginning of a journey with a clear destination.




Image from Unequal Scenes by Johnny Miller.

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