As a general rule if you value something, you keep track of it. When it comes to social progress, you need to measure things if you want to be able to tell if they are improving. That includes diversity, and Green 2.0 is an organisation dedicated to reporting on ethnic diversity among the staff of American environmental NGOs.
Why such a specific project? Because environmental problems often affect people of colour more – as we’ve seen with air pollution, water quality, or risk from natural disasters. Both locally and globally, the impacts of climate change divide dramatically along colour lines, as I describe in my book Climate Change is Racist. Given the unequal impacts, it’s vital that people of colour are not just heard in the discussion around environmental issues, but at the forefront of decision making. ‘Nothing about us without us’ as democracy and justice campaigners say.
By monitoring and reporting on diversity in the sector, Green 2.0 is able to hold organisations to their best intentions, when they say they want to be more representative.
So how are they doing so far?
The first Green 2.0 report came out in 2014, authored by Prof Dorceta Taylor (someone whose work I drew on in my own book). It has now become an annual publication, reporting on total staff, leadership and CEOs across 67 different organisations. The 2021 report found that 60% of full-time staff in the sector are white, which is roughly proportionate to the current (but rapidly changing) US population. However, the higher up the management ladder, the whiter it becomes. “NGOs are still overwhelmingly White-led”, says the report, “and need to make progress in this area to be representative of our nation.”
Looking at the trends in the report, there has been some progress. The number of people of colour on NGO boards is rising, for example. It has been steadily increasing for the five years that Green 2.0 has been releasing its figures.
The UK population is less diverse than the United States, but there are similar problems with diversity within the green movement. There is no equivalent to Green 2.0, but a report a few years ago found that the environment was among the least representative professional sectors. Government agencies were particularly bad, with just 3.8% of staff at the environment agency from ethnic minorities, and 1.8% at Natural England. It’s hardly surprising that environmental justice research is so hard to find in Britain – the people most likely to raise concerns just aren’t there.
If we want to improve those ratios in the UK, and get a better understanding of environmental justice, we need to start measuring that data on an annual basis. Anyone want to create a Green 2.0 for Britain?