Environmental Groups Lack Staff Diversity, Study Finds

Environmental Groups Lack Staff Diversity, Study Finds

A new study conducted by a University of Michigan researcher has found that minorities and people of color are underrepresented on the staffs of environmental organizations, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Commissioned by Green 2.0, a working group focused on addressing diversity challenges in the environmental movement, the report, The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations (192 pages, PDF), by Dorceta E. Taylor, a professor of environmental justice studies, found that people of color make up about 38 percent of the U.S. population but account for only 12 percent to 15.5 percent of the staffs of environmentally focused foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies. What's more, none of the largest environmental organizations has a person of color as president, vice president, or associate/assistant director. In addition, while progress has been made in the area of gender diversity, 70 percent of the presidents and board chairs of conservation/preservation organizations are male — a number that jumps to 90 percent when the sample is narrowed to organizations with budgets of at least $1 million.

Environmental organizations responding to the survey attributed the lack of staff diversity to a shortage of open positions and qualified applicants. "We believe this report is critically needed and very timely," said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earth Justice, which works in the area of environmental public interest law. "Our movement, and indeed our own organization, have a serious problem in that we don't yet reflect the rich diversity of our nation, or even the diversity of groups we represent in our work to protect the environment for all people."

Taylor, for her part, isn't so sure. "The numbers don’t lie," she told the Times. "Even more troubling: although most of the survey respondents expressed an interest in bridging this diversity gap, they admit their organizations are unlikely to take the necessary steps to do so."

Marianne Levine. "Minorities Aren’t Well Represented in Environmental Groups, Study Finds." Los Angeles Times 07/28/2014.