In 2017, the think tank Policy Exchange attempted to measure the extent of ethnic diversity across occupations in England and Wales, finding that ethnic diversity has been unevenly distributed across different sectors and that ‘environment professionals’ were the second least diverse profession in the UK. In response to this finding, NUS, IEMA and The Equality Trust formed a partnership with the intention of shedding further light on the findings of the Policy Exchange’s analysis through further research and also to bring together organisations from across the environmental sustainability sector to secure commitment to driving improved racial diversity and inclusivity. To launch the research, and begin the process of collaborative working on race and inclusivity, a roundtable event was convened, bringing together representatives from environmental charities and NGOs, as well as commercial environmental consultancies and government bodies.
The event started with reflections from a panel, which included Baroness Lola Young, Dr Wanda Wyporska (Executive Director at The Equality Trust), Shakira Martin (NUS President) and Serene Esuruoso (Education Officer, Leeds University Union). Each panel member provided their thoughts and experiences of diversity and inclusivity, with specific reference to the environmental sustainability sector.
After this, attendees were introduced to key findings from the research which gathered further detail on the diversity of organisations working across the environment sector, including ‘environment professionals’ but also those working for organisations focused on achieving environmental sustainability. It also secured insight into the perceptions of the sector amongst future potential employees (students currently in higher and further education) to understand where different experiences and view exist according to ethnicity. Further details about the research and its findings can be found here.
The remainder of the event was devoted to responses to the research, and also discussion of experiences of working to address racial diversity within attendees' organisations. Overall, the research and proposal to work collaboratively across the sector to address the issue was strongly welcomed by attendees and NUS is looking forward to being part of future initiatives in this area.