New Scheme to Boost Environment Sector’s Lack of Diversity

03 May 2022 by Chloë Hunt
blog author

Just 4.8 per cent of professionals working in the environment sector identify as black, Asian or minority ethnic, compared to the 12.6 per cent average across all professions, a recent study has shown.

The data was conducted by student-led education charity SOS-UK (Students Organising for Sustainability UK), The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) which highlighted the vast underrepresentation of people of colour across the sector, despite ongoing efforts to remedy this.

In recognition of the data results, a racial reporting initiative has been unveiled to encourage UK environmental charities, and their funders, to tackle the lack of racial diversity in their workforce and governing bodies. 

The RACE Report campaign is spearheaded by a diverse partnership comprising SOS-UK, South Asians for Sustainability, Nature Youth Connection and Education and Hindu Climate Action, aiming to replicate the success of Green 2.0, a seminal annual transparency report of staff diversity in the top 40 environmental not-for-profits and environmental foundations in the USA. 

According to the latest research from the Office for National Statistics, ‘conservation professionals’ and other areas in the environment sector are classified as 100 per cent white.

The researchers also scrutinised data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency and found that black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals are underrepresented in the ‘feeder subjects’ for environmental careers, flagging up the disparity before they’ve even entered the workplace. For example, only six per cent of those studying biodiversity conservation identify as black, Asian or minority ethnic, compared with a 26 per cent average across all higher education subjects. 

The report will set up a standardised data collection methodology for the UK’s environmental charities, and their funders, who will be required to assess and report on the racial diversity of their workforce and trustees annually. It is hoped this will bring greater transparency, enable peer learning and enhance the charities to be more inclusive and diverse.

Manu Maunganidze, from the RACE Report team, said: “The evidence for representation in the environment sector is, at best, sobering. According to the latest data the sector continues to have less than 5 per cent of its workforce who come from minority backgrounds.

“This is a very modest improvement since the last time we looked at this data in 2017, but few would say it’s anywhere near good enough. At the current rate, it will take the sector over 20 years to get to a point of representation matching the reality of racial diversity in other professions.

‍“We urgently need transparency on the racial diversity of individual organisations’ trustee boards and staff teams, and we are going to do that through the RACE Report. Without comparative data and evidence, the improvements will continue to be incremental and the sector and its funders will continue to fall behind in their stated aims to fight for social and environmental justice.”

The initiative has attracted interest from more than 30 charities and funders who have already pledged to take part, including 2050 Climate Group, Action for Conservation, British Trust for Ornithology, Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust and The Zoological Society of London. The organisers hope that more charities and trusts – at least 100 - will submit data in the first year. 

The report follows the IEMA’s Diverse Sustainability Initiative (DSI) launched in March last year to diversify the profession by supporting existing and potential environment professionals through education, connection, and transparency.

Sarah Mukherjee, CEO of IEMA, said: “These latest figures are really disappointing and reflect exactly why IEMA launched our own initiative, the Diverse Sustainability Initiative, to support people of colour and other marginalised communities, within the profession.

“As a British Asian, I know how important it is to address systematic inequality and the real need to reflect the diversity of this country. We must continue to gather data and offer our support and encouragement to people who wish to join our sector but feel they don’t belong. You do belong, and we are here to support you.”

Chloë Hunt, Global Director of Research & Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Acre said: “It’s good to see some significant players within the environmental charity and NGO sector commit to this pledge. Hopefully, this will unlock and pave the way for more commitment across the sector. This action will also encourage better and critical transparency and measurement to be embedded into the environmental charity sector.”

Chloë manages Acre’s global research function which underpins all of Acre's services and sectors. She and her team conduct in-depth market analyses, head hunting, talent assessments and candidate engagement services. Chloë has a strong track record of success with executive-level placements in the public and private sectors.

Acre's Research Function runs the Business Intelligence & Salary Benchmarking services. Chloë has led this for over 5 years. This includes; talent mapping and assistance with mergers and acquisitions and support for special projects that enable Acre's clients to make better hiring decisions and smarter business choices Chloë also leads the development of Acre’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) strategy, co-chairs Acre’s EDI steering committee and works with Acre's SLT in developing an inclusive and diverse recruitment process.