5th October 2022

Joint route map launched to boost ethnic diversity in the environment sector
  • Sector-wide research and engagement has led to the development of a route map
  • Which environment groups will use to boost ethnic diversity over the next 5 years
  • Bat Conservation Trust is one of 42 organisations committed to delivering key actions between 2023-2027

Research has revealed huge appetite for change within the sector, but ongoing issues with lack of action, experience of racism for staff and continued barriers to entry

Wildlife and Countryside Link is today launching a route map of key steps for environment charities to take over the next 5 years, in order to help the sector to become more ethnically diverse. 42 organisations have already pledged to deliver change, with further charities expected to commit to the route map aims in coming months. [1]

The innovative route map has been devised by diversity and leadership experts Full Colour. It was produced based on research on attitudes and perceptions on ethnic diversity and inclusion with more than 2000 environment professionals in 2021, and an extensive consultation process with staff across a breadth of environment charities in 2022. Staff who were consulted with to develop the route map, included people of colour, CEOs and Board members, and equality and diversity specialists.[2]

The environment sector has long been aware of, and keen to address, its lack of ethnic diversity. Only 4.81% of environment professionals are people of colour, compared to 12.64% of the workforce overall.[3] Some charities have already made significant progress on becoming more diverse - please see notes to editors for some examples.[4] However change in the wider sector is slow, and many organisations, particularly those that are smaller and less well-resourced, are still struggling with how to deliver change. The new route map, along with an accompanying guidebook, is intended to give direction and advice to help organisations to overcome some of the barriers they are facing around taking action on diversity.

The development of the route map has been funded by Natural England, John Ellerman Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “Too many people feel excluded from nature and too many people still feel excluded from the nature sector.

"Our research shows that there's a great appetite for change in the environment movement. People want to be part of an inclusive, diverse and socially progressive movement. They know that saving nature will depend on the talents and energy of everyone working together. It also shows that despite this conviction, many organisations are still in the starting blocks on diversity and inclusion.

"The aim of the route map is to empower the movement to change and to hold ourselves to account to ensure that it happens.”

Full Colour CEO and founder Srabani Sen OBE, said: “Our research has offered a unique insight into what is helping and hindering the environment sector from becoming more diverse. It’s clear that the will to change is there, but organisations were unclear where to start and what action to take to create change. There is still a huge mountain to climb in removing the barriers to entry and career progression that people of colour face, and in making these organisations truly welcoming and inclusive places to work.

"The route map provides a clear framework to create consistent change in the sector, and common aims and milestones for environment charities to work towards together, to achieve a more diverse and representative nature sector within 5 years. The guidebook provides practical, step by step guidance which can be tailored to each organisation so they can move from ambition to action

Kit Stone, CEO of Bat Conservation Trust said: "Our vision at the Bat Conservation Trust is a world rich in wildlife where bats and people thrive together, but at the moment there are some groups in society who do not have the opportunity to thrive in our sector and who do not have equal access to nature. This is not acceptable. BCT is committed to making both our organisation and the sector more inclusive, and the route map will be important in helping us achieve this. I have been heartened by the real appetite for change amongst colleagues and look forward to working with others to improve not only ethnic diversity in the sector, but perhaps even more importantly, meaningful inclusion of all members of society."

Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England said: “As we work to address the huge challenge of nature’s recovery in England, we must ensure all voices are represented and the benefits of accessing and spending time in nature are equally shared.
“At Natural England we know that change needs to be sector wide and built from the ground up. We are pleased to support the publication of this route map and are committed to taking a leading role in increasing the ethnic diversity of our organisation. Alongside this, we are working hard to ensure Natural England is an inclusive place to work, where all staff feel welcome and able to reach their full potential

The research conducted last year showed high appetite for change, but low overall levels of action on diversity. Of the 44 environment organisations surveyed, 84% had considered the issues or taken some action, but did not have a specific diversity action plan, with only 4% having an action plan that they consistently implemented. 86% of leaders felt that increasing ethnic diversity should be a top or high priority for the environment sector, but only 22% felt it currently is a priority.

The 2021 research also revealed concerning findings, in particular that all people of colour surveyed said that there was overt or covert racism and unconscious bias in the sector. The findings also demonstrated a big perception gap between senior leaders and staff in how well their organisations are doing on diversity.[5]

The route map launched today sets out action for collective work in four core areas of improving culture, transparency, action on racism, and organisational plans and practices. The measures outlined for individual organisations in the route map range from basic actions, such as incorporating ethnic diversity terms and definitions routinely and establishing internal responsibilities on diversity, through to more ambitious moves such as enhancing racism monitoring, reporting and enforcement.

The report also outlines joint actions that the sector should take to bridge gaps in capacity and experience, particularly for smaller organisations with less resource. These include sector-wide delivery of: training to debias recruitment and development; in-depth research on racism in the sector; diversity and anti-racism training; an empowerment programme to bring more people of colour into leadership roles, and peer learning circles on best and emerging practice. The report also recommends regular monitoring and benchmarking of diversity in the sector, which is already underway through the Race Report which is being widely supported by the environment movement.

These joint actions, alongside actions by individual organisations, could help to speed up change in the sector by boosting knowledge and resource. While these joint measures are as yet unfunded, Wildlife and Countryside Link is in discussions with several funding bodies.