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Two Steps Forward

Introducing, a new nonprofit for BIPOC professionals

Why aren’t there more Black, Indigenous and people of color working in sustainability?

Last week, during GreenBiz 21, Jarami Bond — a new colleague but an old friend — announced the launch of a new nonprofit "that exists solely to nurture and empower BIPOC professionals to accelerate a just transition to a clean economy," as he described it.

It was a moment of deep pride for all of us.

The nonprofit, spun out of the for-profit GreenBiz Group as an independent entity, was born of our longstanding efforts to counter the overwhelming whiteness of the sustainable business profession — and sustainability overall — but was energized by the events of last summer, as the topic of racial justice burst from the margins to the mainstream across the United States and beyond. is the response to a range of confounding challenges so many of us have voiced in both public and private settings. Among them: Why aren’t there more Black, Indigenous and people of color — BIPOC, in today’s argot — working in sustainability? Speaking on behalf of the predominantly white corporate sustainability movement, how can we, individually and collectively, better engage, serve and learn from communities of color, the tens of millions of our fellow humans who may not look like us? Where are the opportunities to lift BIPOC voices, to elevate and amplify the ideas and proven solutions from communities outside our sphere?

Perhaps we need to create a bigger sphere.

I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities.

I’ll let Bond describe the purpose of this new organization, pulling from his moving and passionate presentation at GreenBiz 21. (You can watch his entire 10-minute talk here. Click on the Tuesday keynote, starting at 41:00 on the video.)

Bond began by sharing his own story, as his childhood love for the environment turned into a career path, starting at Interface, the iconic flooring company.

Along the way, he said:

I recognized that something huge was missing, something that I felt was integral to our field accomplishing the big, bold goals it was chasing after. And that missing link was people that looked like me, Black- and Brown-melanated souls.

Throughout his time in both college and Corporate America, Bond said, "I grew used to being the only Black person in my class or on my team — the face of the race, navigating microaggressions and flagrant assumptions, wrestling with double consciousness, challenging those who wanted me to conform to majority culture, and trying to posture myself constantly to defy the stereotypes, even challenging those who tried to suppress my blackness to make themselves more comfortable, or make a caricature of it for their own entertainment."

Jarami Bond

Jarami Bond speaking to the GreenBiz 21 audience.

Amid his personal struggles, Bond saw an opportunity to align his profession with his passion:

I believe that in light of the empathy that exists at the core of our work, we as sustainability professionals must continue to be linked arm-in-arm with BIPOC communities, with the stakeholders at the front of the march advocating for equity and justice. We need all hands on deck.

In parallel, as my colleagues and I at GreenBiz Group began to sketch out the vision for a new nonprofit, I knew exactly who to enlist to help. As a strategic adviser to, Bond is leading the efforts to stand up this organization and to articulate its purpose, as he did so eloquently last week:

We envision a vibrant ecosystem of individuals, organizations and communities working symbiotically to transform our field culturally and dismantle environmental injustice.

We will convene companies, nonprofits, activists and community stakeholders to bolster the resilience of disadvantaged and marginalized communities.

We will foster belonging and support the career development of BIPOC sustainability professionals.

We will help fund BIPOC social entrepreneurs spearheading startups and small businesses focused on innovating toward a clean economy through an intersectional lens.

We will support creators of color telling stories about the emerging clean economy through that same intersectional lens.

We will also create spaces for BIPOC sustainability professionals to build community fostering deeper connection and support.

He concluded, as he began, on a personal note: "I am over-the-moon excited because I've been working to create what I and so many in our space have been dreaming of for so long. ... I truly believe that our field will be different because this nonprofit exists.”

We are over-the-moon excited, too — about the potential for this new organization to open the sustainability tent far wider than before to include voices and faces not traditionally heard and seen within the mainstream business community. And to — finally — harness a far broader swath of knowledge, wisdom and experience about what it means to live in a sustainable world. And how we can all get there together.

Much more to come as takes wing. For now, we welcome interested parties: funders; strategic partners; and professionals excited about the new entity’s vision and goals. Sign up for updates here, or email Bond directly: [email protected].

I invite you to follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz, and listen to GreenBiz 350, my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy.

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