One of our priorities for the next few years is to improve diversity and inclusion at all levels across the organisation. Trustee Sally Carr outlines our key commitments and explains why this is so crucial to CAT’s mission.
CAT has recently been refreshing its organisational strategy, setting out the vision, mission and strategic priorities for the next five years, as well as describing a number of key principles underlying our work. One of these is that CAT is “Inclusive – we believe in the transformative power of diversity, inclusion and equality.” Putting this in context, the strategy includes the following paragraph:
“The environmental movement in the UK is dominated by a single demographic: the white middle class. There are a variety of systemic roots to this situation that no single organisation can hope to change on its own; nonetheless, one of our key aims for the next five years is to increase diversity and inclusion at all levels in our staff body and across key audiences, helping us benefit from and engage with a wider range of voices and perspectives as we build a movement for change.”
It is worth noting here that we are not saying that white, middle class people are the only ones engaged in environmental work, but that environmental work carried out by other groups is often overlooked by organisations dominated by this demographic. One example of such a group is Wretched of the Earth, a “grassroots collective for Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups and individuals demanding climate justice and acting in solidarity with our communities, both here in the UK and in the Global South”.
The events of summer 2020 and the increased media attention to the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted the need for all sections of society to take action to address issues of systemic racism.
At CAT, this is has been the subject of many recent discussions within and among staff, management and trustees, as well as with students from our graduate school and members and supporters. While CAT has always welcomed diversity and aimed to be inclusive, we recognise that we need to be more proactive, not just in relation to racism, but in terms of diversity and inclusion in all areas. This encompasses all of the protected characteristics, such as race, age, religion, gender and disability, but in addition, people of different backgrounds and viewpoints.
In the coming time we are renewing our commitment to action, at four levels:
1. Increasing reach and representation
We will find ways to increase numbers of groups currently under-represented among all our stakeholders, including trustees, staff, students, members and visitors.
One way we can approach this is to use networks and channels that can help us ensure that advertisements and promotions are likely to be seen by diverse audiences. For example, I have recently been in discussion with Malcolm John, who is leading a campaign within the Association of Chairs to increase diversity among charity trustees, about ways we could widen the audiences likely to see and respond to trustee vacancies.
Reviewing the wording of job advertisements to make these more attractive for different groups is a further important step. We can also look to provide opportunities for people from under-represented groups to find out more about CAT through dedicated days or programmes.
As an organisation based in Wales, we would like to increase the number of staff – particularly at senior levels – who come from the local area, and who are fluent speakers of Welsh. One way to address this may be to put more emphasis on training and development of employees, so as to enable them to progress within the organisation and take on more senior positions.
2. Ensuring an inclusive and enabling environment
It is vital that we ensure that we create an environment that feels inclusive and enabling to all. This may entail changes to physical layout – for example, for the past few years we have had some toilets in the WISE building and café designated as “gender-neutral”, to provide for people of non-binary gender. New developments on site need to be made with accessibility issues kept firmly in mind.
Equally important is staff training and development, so that everybody is treated with respect and in the ways they would like to be treated. We will include diversity and inclusivity training as a standard part of new staff induction, as well as offering ongoing refresher courses for existing staff.
3. Relevant content
We will continue reviewing the content of CAT’s educational messages, whether in displays onsite, tours and lectures for visitors, short courses, programmes for school groups, or graduate courses.
We want to ensure that we are representing issues that are relevant to people from all different sections of society, and that we do not make assumptions that seem to exclude some people.
Some years ago, I recall taking part in a session during one of CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain short courses about ways in which energy and CO2 impacts of a home could be reduced. Part way through the session, a participant put her hand up and said: “This is all great if you own your own home, but what about those of us who live in rented accommodation – what are we meant to do?” We are very conscious of the need for CAT’s messages to be relevant to the wide variety of situations in which people live and work.
4. Highlighting the need for climate justice
It is important that we understand the links between systemic racism and environmental and climate justice in order to properly address the solutions to climate change.
CAT has a history going back decades of including climate justice and global equity in its education programme, through its work with schools and teachers, as well as with older groups – its activity in this area was pioneering at the time.
More recently, CAT’s 2017 Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen report included a section specifically addressing the links between global inequality and climate change.
Over the last few years CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment has increased its teaching about the connections between climate change, racism and global inequality, and this is an area we will continue to emphasise in all our educational work.
Why do we want to do this? Well, one reason is that it’s the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint and means that our commitment to value all individuals and diverse voices is put into practice. But just as importantly, it is the only way in which CAT can be most effective as an organisation. On the one hand, greater diversity of staff, trustees, students and members will bring a richer set of ideas and viewpoints, leading to increased creativity and a more complete picture of the issues. On the other, it will help us reach out further in terms of inspiring, informing and enabling people from all backgrounds to respond to the climate and biodiversity emergency – in other words, achieving CAT’s mission.
We would love to hear from you if you are keen to help CAT continue its diversity and inclusion journey, especially if you have expertise, ideas or contacts that you feel may be beneficial.
About the author
Sally is Vice Chair of CAT’s Board of Trustees. Before joining the Board, she headed up our fundraising team, having previously spent many years volunteering at CAT during her holidays. She has a background in organisational psychology and 20 years’ experience in leadership and team development training.