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The GreenBiz Interview

Green 2.0: Corporate advocacy and the environmental movement's racial reckoning

Andrés Jimenez, Green 2.0

Andrés Jimenez, Green 2.0

Green 2.0

Green 2.0, formally dubbed the Green Diversity Initiative, was created five years ago with the mission of increasing racial diversity among environmental organizations.

Its latest report card from February, which assesses the racial makeup of the board, leadership and staff of the top 40 NGOs and top 40 foundations, found some progress — at least among those that share their data. Just 19 NGOs and five foundations were willing to share all that information, 17 NGOs and nine foundations shared some, and four NGOs and 26 foundations declined to participate.

"The positive movement among those organizations who have shared their data is encouraging," noted Green 2.0 founder Robert Raben, in a statement about the report. "However, we still have an incomplete picture of whether several of the environmental movement’s top organizations are all making similar progress."

Since the report’s publication, the spotlight has intensified as the environmental movement writ large — including the corporate sustainability world — reckons with its troubling record of discrimination and exclusion.

This summer, Green 2.0 named a new executive director, Andrés Jimenez, to turn up the volume on its campaign, both in the NGO world and in policy circles. Prior to his new role, Jimenez was senior director of government affairs for Citizens Climate Lobby, spending time with both the House and the Senate. He worked for the New York City mayor’s office, served on the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee and is an active member of GreenLatinos.

We will absolutely let them know which organizations refuse to be transparent, refuse to bring people of color to the table, refuse to give people of color a voice in this movement. That will be a very important component.

"I think that organizations need to really look at who they are and their mission," Jimenez told me when I spoke with him in late August. "They need to look at an actual cultural change. If they don’t change from a foundation of who they are, if they don’t change culturally, they will continue to run into the problem. That is, even if they do bring in people of color, the new hires coming in will not feel part of the team. They will not feel like they belong, and they will leave."

I spoke with Jimenez about Green 2.0’s action plan for raising awareness of racial justice within the environmental movement, why policy advocacy is crucial and why corporations need to be part of the solution. An excerpted version of our conversation, edited for length and style, follows.

Heather Clancy: What’s your top priority, and how will the mission be re-invigorated? What new conversations are we going to be having?

Andrés Jimenez: We are going to look at foundations and their hiring practices, and we’ll continue, obviously, to look at environmental organizations and their hiring practices, both at the staff level and also how they’re filling their boards. What will change is kind of the approach of how we’re doing this. We’ll continue to look yearly through our report card at the data that is submitted. We’ll continue to push both organizations and foundations to be transparent on this and to report out their hiring practices. But we plan on being much more aggressive.

We plan on using lots of different methods to get organizations to understand that they need to change because they should have already, but that if they don’t change, they’re going to feel a lot of pressure to do so. We’ll be using social media, regular media. We’ll be working with foundations, we’ll be working with their colleagues. But also, and this is a new part of Green 2.0, we are going to be working with Congress and the future administration. We will be working with committees as well. By that I mean we will go in and talk to members of Congress and committees and let them know the state of the environmental movement when it comes to diversity.

We will let them know and talk to them, for example, about our annual report card. We will let them know and spotlight those actors we feel are improving and moving in the right way. But, more importantly, we will absolutely let them know which organizations refuse to be transparent, refuse to bring people of color to the table, refuse to give people of color a voice in this movement. That will be a very important component. As you well know, organizations go to the Hill and work with members and committees to pass legislation on their issues. The goal here is to go there and tell these members of Congress, "Before you start working with these groups, you should understand and you should know just exactly where they stand when it comes to diversity." …

Another part is that we are going to be reaching out and have already been reaching out, not only to the business community but to the tech community. We’re reaching out, adding new partners every week. I think that’s very important.

Clancy: Many of the large companies in the GreenBiz audience work closely with the environmental organizations on their climate initiatives. How can they help move the needle on racial diversity?

Jimenez: It’s definitely by amplifying the voices of those moving on these issues … Working and partnering with groups like Green 2.0 can not only help them, it can help us, and it can help the movement move forward in the way it should. It can do that by helping to push those organizations that are currently not working on or being transparent on these issues, and it can help move those organizations that are working on these issues to move faster.

I think that partnership is key. We are always striving to open up and have more partners. I think that any way that we can — organizations can, businesses can — amplify the work we’re doing. I think that that’s always very helpful all around. Another thing that can be helpful is to sponsor events. So, if there are organizations, if there are groups that are looking for sponsors, one of the things that businesses can do is come in and say, "Hey, we’ll help sponsor these events and make it easier on you to be able to talk about these issues and to reach a larger audience."

Clancy: What about in the realm that you were just talking about? How can businesses use their voices more effectively when it comes to public policy that addresses systemic environmental justice issues. Many typically have been shy when it comes to that. What can they do to be more effective?

Jimenez: It’s definitely meeting with members of Congress. Go and talk to them, make sure it’s part of your talking points. Obviously, when businesses go and talk with members of Congress — whether local leaders, political leaders or with groups — they come with talking points. Just include this idea of diversity and inclusion, making more of a push within organizations in the movement to be more diverse. I think having that as a talking point moving forward shows not only a commitment from the businesses, but it also shows that they’re in tune with what’s happening and that they care, and that they’re willing to actually act on it. So, they aren’t just words, but they’re actually putting words into action.

I think it would be irresponsible for businesses not to play a national role as well, given some of the sizes of these companies and the power that they wield.

Clancy: I know this isn’t really your concern, but what steps would you like to see businesses take within their own organizations? And in what ways might they be able to work with Green 2.0 to learn about their shortcomings and take steps to fill the gap?

Jimenez: It’s about being proactive, and I think that there’s many steps that businesses can take, companies can take. One is obviously to reach out to us. We’d always love to hear from companies and find ways to partner …

It’s talking to each other about these issues and making sure that they’re in unison when it comes to talking about diversity and the importance of diversity within the environmental movement, and making sure that they — that all these businesses together — are not only talking with one another but have it as a talking point moving forward, and are able to address these issues and talk about them publicly.

Clancy: Do you feel like it’s more important for companies to address specific local communities with their actions or at the federal level?

Jimenez: I think there’s an opportunity for both. I think that companies can invest locally in their community and community groups, but I think that they can also play a national role, and I think it would be irresponsible for businesses not to play a national role as well, given some of the sizes of these companies and the power that they wield.

If they come in and they’re talking with their members of Congress, if they’re putting their actions into mission statements, strategic thought process, I think that that’s really important. I think that if members of Congress are hearing it from different communities, from different organizations, from different groups and companies, all at the same time, something’s got to give, and something will give. And so I think it’s really important for both local leaders as well as national leaders to be hearing from these companies on these issues.

Clancy: Many of these companies are also multinational, right? To what extent do you concern yourself with beyond the U.S.?

Jimenez: We’re always looking at, obviously, the global picture, and we’re always interested in listening and hearing to what other countries are doing around these issues, what’s working, what’s not. But our main concern, our main work is here in the United States. It doesn’t mean that we’re tuning out what the rest of the world is doing. We’re actually very closely monitoring what other countries are doing and trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not. As you mentioned, so many of these companies are not just national but they’re international. And so, it’s important to get an idea of kind of how the work internationally and globally come into play on a national level.

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