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Reflections and action for racial justice

Like many organisations, we have been reflecting further in recent weeks on our role in advancing racial justice as an organisation with a focus on climate justice.

Our journey is decades in the making. The student movement has long fought racism and our work on divestment from fossil fuels is rooted in the strategies of the apartheid divestment movement. We understand that intersectionality is integral to climate justice. We will not create a more just and sustainable society without tackling racism because at its core, climate change is caused by racism, colonialism, and capitalism. It is these same unjust systems that cause so many of the problems we face across society, here in the UK and globally. We must seek to understand these deeply-rooted systemic causes to be able to tackle them.  

As a charity, we recognise that we have much, much further to go. We employ a predominantly white staff team and recognise that environmental professions are the second least racially diverse in the UK. Our 2018 research in partnership with IEMA and the Equality Trust sought to explore this further.  

One of our three workstreams aims to �make sustainability more inclusive, for everyone.� We know that this means further centring social justice in our work, engaging partner organisations, educational institutions, and students� unions to do the same, and ensuring we support students� sustainability pathways within and beyond formal education.

For the past several years we have been working to further embed social justice through our work. An important moment for us a few years ago was a team meeting focused on intersectionality. We explored the intersection of climate and race, class, LGBTQ+, women, and disability. We are grateful to the campaigners who joined us that day from brilliant organisations like Plane Stupid and DPAC

As a result, we have been thinking more critically about our behaviour change work and broadening these programmes to include further learning and action on wider systemic change, as well as individual action. In our education programmes, we have been exploring the intersection of decolonising the curriculum and embedding sustainability throughout student learning. At our annual Student Sustainability Summit in 2018, we centred discussion on climate as a race issue with a keynote from Asad Rehman and Alex Wanjiku Kelbert. As a staff team, we are striving to further our knowledge and understanding of racism and white privilege. 

We have recently committed to a series of small actions which we hope will further our work on racial justice. Specifically, we are:  

  • Facilitating a fortnightly reading group for all staff, on work time, to discuss issues relating to race, racism, white supremacy and colonialism;
  • Commissioning a podcast series, led by students, to discuss the intersectionality and sustainability, specifically focusing on race, class, gender, disability, and sexuality;
  • Hosting two student placements in summer 2021 specifically for Black and minority ethnic students to support their professional pathways into careers in sustainability (as well as working with similar organisations to do the same � please let us know if you want to join us). 

We know that this is not enough, and we will continue to strive to do better. We continue to stand in solidarity with those here in the UK and around the globe fighting for racial justice and commit ourselves to continue learning, challenging ourselves and our organisation, and taking action.