Racial diversity in environmental charity sector reaches 7% but remains below national average

December 13, 2022

Guest blog
Data released today by The RACE Report campaign has revealed that just 7% of those working in the environmental charity sector identify as black, asian or minority ethnic, compared with a 14% national average across all people in employment. This new data was voluntarily submitted by 91 organisations representing 7,948 employees as part of a collective effort to improve transparency and marks the most comprehensive study of its kind in the sector.

Today’s report coincides with the release of the latest annual transparency report from US-based sister campaign Green 2.0 – and represents an international drive to improve diversity within a predominantly white sector.

Launched in April, The RACE Report campaign is a UK-wide racial reporting initiative aimed at encouraging UK environmental charities and fundraisers to improve the racial diversity of their workforce and governing bodies. This is the first in a series of annual reports which will serve as a robust benchmark for the sector’s progress and provide constructive insights.

Participating organisations were asked to assess and report on the racial diversity of their workforce and trustees. The report’s findings suggest the sector is making encouraging, steady progress – and excelling in some areas – but must make further, faster progress to build a workforce that is more representative of modern Britain.

One area in which the environmental charity sector exceeds expectations is in the proportionally high number of people of colour (POC) who serve as trustees. Data from 62 UK environmental organisations showed that POC represent 11% of those on governance and trustee boards, which, according to the most recent data, surpasses the wider charity sector’s average (8%). Visibility of POC in influential positions is an essential driver for the recruitment and retention of those from racially minoritised groups.

However, across the 57 organisations which provided data on the topic of managerial roles, it was found that only 5% of managerial roles are currently held by POC. Likewise, the sector must ensure that POC occupy permanent roles with meaningful career progression. Currently, people of colour have greater representation in non-permanent roles (10%) than permanent (7%). POC are, however, proportionally represented in terms of career advancement, accounting for 9% of all those who experienced career growth over the course of 2021.

The RACE Report also received responses from 93 organisations on the implementation status of a number of diversity-boosting initiatives. The results demonstrate that the sector is committed to tackling its diversity shortfalls through positive action. For example, 82% of organisations either have included or are in the process of including statements promoting race equity and inclusion within all new recruitment materials; 76% of organisations have recently reviewed or are in the process of reviewing the imagery and language used in marketing and websites materials to promote inclusivity; and 66% of organisations have introduced or are introducing compulsory staff training on race equality, diversity and inclusion. Significantly, more than half of these organisations (53%) have spokespeople or patrons which include POC.

Manu Maunganidze, from The RACE Report team, said:

“We cannot underestimate the importance of having people of colour as spokespeople. This representation sends a clear message: everyone must have their voice heard. The fight for social and environmental justice affects all of us, and we’re going to need the full depth and breadth of our society’s talent to win it.
“We’re still a long way from making our sector truly representative. But we have something we were desperately lacking before: comparative data and evidence. With this, organisations can hold themselves accountable against their stated aims, identify areas of underperformance, and make the necessary strides to improve diversity as part of a coordinated effort. But while this is the largest study of its kind, we should remember that today’s report is informed only by organisations that volunteered their data. It’s probable that our sector is less diverse than today’s data suggests. Participation from an even greater number of organisations within the sector will give us more precise insights and shape best practice.
“Ultimately, people of all identities need to feel welcome and have equal opportunity to develop and express their talent within this sector. Future versions of the report hope to gather evidence of good inclusion practice across a range of diversity markers. But for now, we must welcome today’s findings as an invitation to build on what we’ve achieved as a community so far and ensure that next year’s report tells a story of more rapid and meaningful progress.”

Key actions yet to be widely implemented across the environmental charity sector include paid placements or internships specifically for POC, which can be offered under positive action,  (currently offered by 14% of organisations) and mentorship schemes aimed at POC (offered by 4%). Placements and internships are often unpaid, making these inaccessible for many due to financial constraints, therefore continuing the trend of marginalised groups being excluded from these spaces. Similarly, in the last 18 months only 3% of organisations have published race equity pay gap data – a crucial component of sector-wide transparency. However, the publishing of pay gap data is only possible where POC are employed in these organisations; an absence of this data likely reflects a lack of diversity.

As the inaugural RACE Report, all data collected from organisations this year has been anonymised to give participants time to learn from each other, introduce policies and take action to improve. Each year from 2023 onwards, the data collection will be repeated, with findings also published annually. From next year, the names of organisations will be included alongside the data, with the aim of increasing transparency so that people of colour can thrive in this crucial sector.