At Ecotrust, social equity is an integral piece of our mission, and it’s vital to fostering resilient communities, economies, and ecosystems here and around the world. Using nature as our guide, we know that deep-rooted, systemic diversity is essential to our ability to survive and thrive.
Since Ecotrust’s founding, our long-standing work with indigenous communities has been our best expression of our commitment to social equity. And yet, we have much more to do to address the significant racial disparities that exist in health outcomes, economic opportunities, and environmental well-being for communities of color throughout our region. Right now, the majority of Oregon’s kids ages 0 to 5 are a racial minority. The faces of our region — those entrusted with its health, protection, and care — are changing.
Here at Ecotrust, our team does not fully reflect our region’s diversity — a consistent shortcoming in our broader field. Green 2.0, an initiative dedicated to increasing racial diversity across mainstream nonprofits that work within the environmental sector, released a report in 2014 demonstrating the failures of mainstream nonprofits to diversify their staff and leadership — despite intentions to do so.
We know that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards, including the consequences of climate change, and that many people of color work on the front lines of resource economies. In Oregon, people of color represent more than 50 percent of the workforce in the farming, forestry, and fisheries sectors — the three natural resource sectors in which Ecotrust works to increase social equity, economic opportunity, and environmental well-being. In order for us to be successful in this work, our staff, leadership, and partnerships must include the voices of communities of color.
For all these reasons, we are on a path to become more inclusive, diverse, and equitable internally and through our work. Based on discussions held over the past three years across all staff levels and program areas, and with the support of our leadership team and board, we have created a racial equity action plan.
To get to this point, we completed the Tool for Organizational Self-Assessment Related to Racial Equity created by the Coalition of Communities of Color here in Portland.
This tool provides a straightforward, practical framework for organizations to complete an internal assessment and create a “snapshot” of where we are regarding racial equity. It is flexible and adaptable, and is designed to address cultural responsiveness both within individual organizations and across a community of organizations.
Last year, with the help of the assessment tool, a core group of staff came together to evaluate the state of equity across our organization. Based on the strengths and weaknesses we identified, we created a strategic action plan as a starting point to advance equity across Ecotrust. We know it will evolve as we move forward, and we look forward to digging into this work.
In January, we began putting our formal plan into action. We have nine high-level goals and have identified an equity plan manager to carry out the plan throughout our organization. Our internal Equity Working Group meets twice monthly to discuss pieces of the plan, and to increase cultural competency of our staff and leadership organization-wide. We are particularly excited to collaborate with other organizations doing this work, craft an equity, diversity, and inclusion statement for Ecotrust, adapt new hiring policies and procedures, and incorporate the collection of equity metrics into our program planning processes.
This work is not easy — we need to deeply question our biases and assumptions, confront our shortcomings, build relationships and trust, and learn to apply an equity lens to everything we do. Throughout this journey, we commit to honesty and transparency. Please stay tuned for more from us.