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 generational situation. A young man or woman leaving the land in search of a better life in the city in late 18th century would not have considered him or herself to be a player in the big game of the Industrial Revolution. They very likely were unaware that King George III was even king. Only recently have we begun to self-define the times we live in. “Thatcherite Britain”, “Globalisation”, “The Anthropocene”, “The Age of Mass Extinction” etc. There is a sense that the more knowledge we have of how our planet and society work, the more valid it is to make grand statements about what time period we live in. The more control we have, perhaps.
Whatever view we choose to take on climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and other key issues of our time, there is definitely a sense that we are at some 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 nor overpowering stench. 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 filling up the entire room and squashing us all to death, along with bursting the walls and wrecking the whole building.
The core of my work as a diversity adviser in the green sector is based on: As we create new industries (renewable energy, recycling methods, sustainable food and textile production etc.) are we genuinely asking ourselves the following questions?
- Who is negatively affected by the “good” work we are doing? Is this transition “just”?
- Who is getting an opportunity to be included in our push towards a more sustainable future?
- 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?
- How can we shake off the chains of inequality, colonialism and prejudice to create fairer workplaces and communities, fairer access to the wheel of self-determination?
- Are we investing, really investing with our wallets and minds, in making sure our companies, charities, campaign groups and staff share a culture of inclusion?
- Are we recognising and amplifying good practice in all these areas (without patting ourselves on the back)?
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 ourselves in the mirror and asking “What needs to change for this 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 looking at practical solutions to the problems of inequality. These efforts are often difficult and occasionally backfire, but if done correctly 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, a time by which it’s not in the realm of unicorns to believe that some of these companies will be very large power-wielding industry leaders? If the environmental sector wins the good fight 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 side-effect of the “Environmental Crisis” if this era were to give birth to the “Era of Equality”.
In upcoming articles I will be discussing some of the issues and trends I have come across and looking at potential solutions and best practice. In the meantime, come and join me at The Watershed in Bristol on the 5th of February for the monthly Green Mingle where the main theme will be diversity.
You can reach out to me on LinkedIn, here.
My name is Manu Maunganidze. I am an outdoor educator and diversity consultant specialising in the sustainability sector and also issues of unconscious bias in recruitment practice and community engagement. I sit on the board of Bristol Green Capital Partnership where I have the opportunity to meet, debate, ask questions of a broad section of people involved in the green movement. If any of the above interests you, then feel free to get in touch through BGCP.