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AFRICAN AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALIST ASSOCIATION

 

Natural Resources Defense Council

 

Diversity Survey Response

 

(Survey Responses Are Below Letter)

 

Letter from NRDC to AAEA

 

December 31, 2003

Norris McDonald

President

African American Environmentalist Association

9903 Caltor Lane

Ft. Washington, MD  20744

 

           RE: AAEA’s “Green Groups Diversity Report Card”

 

Dear Mr. McDonald:

 

As the African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA) prepares to compile and release its “Green Group Diversity Report Card,“ NRDC is pleased to provide a response to the diversity survey and to reaffirm our continuing commitment to ensuring that our work and staff reflects the full spectrum of people across our country.

Thirteen years have passed since the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and dozens of community leaders of color from across the country sent a letter to NRDC and nine other national environmental groups, expressing concern over our lack of attention to environmental justice and diversity within our organizations. In response to SWOP's 1990 letter, John Adams, NRDC's then-Executive Director and current President, attended the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991, and pledged to undertake a series of steps aimed at addressing the concerns raised in the letter.

 

Soon after the First Summit, NRDC created a formal Environmental Justice Initiative and hired Vernice Miller-Travis, a long-standing leader in the environmental justice movement and co-founder of West Harlem Environmental Action in New York City, to coordinate our environmental justice efforts. Presently, our Environmental Justice Initiative is coordinated by staff attorney Michelle Alvarez, who spent four years with Boston-based Alternatives for Community & Environment, INc., an environmental justice law and education center, prior to arriving at NRDC in 2000. Both Michelle and I attended the Second National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in October 2002 in an effort to continue the dialogue around how NRDC can continue to play a valuable role in the environmental justice movement and how NRDC can diversify its staff, board, and membership.

 

When in the early 1990's NRDC adopted a formal mission statement, we included the following language to further institutionalize our commitment to environmental justice and working with communities of color:

 

"...[w]e work to foster the fundamental right of all people to have a voice in decisions that affect their environment. We seek to break down the pattern of disproportionate environmental burdens borne by people of color and others who face social or economic inequities..."

 

Indeed, over the past decade, we have worked with an increasing number of communities of color to secure important public health and quality of life gains. In addition, we hope that our environmental justice will help us to access a more diverse pool of job applicants. Many of our successful partnerships with organizations of color are highlighted in the enclosed brochure entitled "Environmental Justice: Defending People's Right to a Helathy Environment."

 

With respect to our hiring practices, we have intensified our efforts but have a long way yet to go to achieve our goal of diversifying the staff and board of NRDC. With every staff and board of trustee position, we make a much more concerted effort to reach out to people of color. Our results incorporated into the survey questionnaire.

 

Recently to ensure that our work is responsive to the needs and concerns of a broader community, we've implemented a formal outreach effort targeted to Latino and Hispanic communities, particularly in California where the Latino and Hispanic population is substantial and where our west coast offices are located. As part of this effort, we've translated portions of our website and key public health publicationss into Spanish.

 

Ultimately, we recognize that the steps we've taken thus far are part of a long-term plan of action and we have more work to do. We hope you find this information helpful in addition to the AAEA questionnaire. If there are further questions we can help you with, please do not hesitate to call.

 

Sincerely,

Frances G. Beinecke

Executive Director

 

Does your organization have grants or contracts with the Federal government?

 

Yes___X___ No_______ List Agencies____________EPA____________________________

 

If yes, indicate range: Less than 100,000________Greater than 100,000_____X______

 

1.     Number of professional minority employees (number of nonminority employees).

 

NRDC's professional staff includes attorneys, scientists, reserachers, analysts, writers, grant managers, and IT, Accounting, Development and Communications professionals. Out of 173 staff, 29 or 17% are people of color.

 

2.     Number of administrative minority employees (number of nonminority admin employees).

 

NRDC has 58 staff members in the support bands. These include, secretaries, administrative assistants, clerical, mailroom, fulfillment, and reception personnel. Twenty-four of 41% of these staff members are people of color.

 

3.     Percent of minority employees over the past 3 years (average) compared to nonminority employees.

 

The percent of minority employees over the past three years is 21%. Currently NRDC has 231 staff members of which 53 or 23% are people of color.

 

4.     Do you have a formal Diversity Program?

 

In 1997, we retained The Douglas Group, Inc. to conduct a diversity audit and training throughout the organization. In addition, NRDC is an active member of a diversity working group, consisting of numerous environmental organizations, coordinated by the National Parks Conservation Association. We recently created a formal internal divesity committee, comprised of staff members at all levels of the organization, which will focus on developing working relationships with key entities, such as professional associations of color, annual national/regional job fairs that cater to professionals of color. Moreover, while our former Human Resources Director was poised to begin implementing a formal strategic diversity plan before his untimely death this year; his successor will take on this responsibility as a priority. However, despite such efforts, we have not made the kind of progress that we expect and need. Accordingly, this will be a continuing priority for NRDC in the future.

 

5.     Number of minority program managers and project directors (number of nonminority program managers and project directors).

 

NRDC has 46 staff members in the Senior Director, Senior Advocate II and Director bands that are responsible for major programmatic areas of the organization. Five of these employees are people of color.

 

6.     Number of formal (programmatic, monetary, managerial) partnerships with minority organizations.

 

NRDC formally partners with communities of color and tribal entities in a number of ways. Primarily, NRDC lawyers and scientists provide legal representation and scientific research assistance to community groups fighting to secure important public health and environmental gains. For a more detailed description of the specific organizations and coalitions with which NRDC has worked, and highlights of environmental justice victories over the past decade, please refer to the enclosed brochure entitled, "Environmental Justice: Defendign People's Rights to a Healthy Environment."

It is difficult to say exactly how many "formal partnerships" currently exist for a number of reasons, including, for example, NRDC still maintains relationships with community groups that were involved in litigation or research projects that have "come full circle," NRDC is continually working with local organizations to explore and develop potential lawsuits, and NRDC participates in a number of broad-based coalitions on policy matters with environmental justice implications. However, in reviewing the number of current formal attorney-client relationships with community organizations, alone, we have at least ten (10) partnerships including for example:

 

 

7.     Number of minority contractors used for goods and services (at least 3 with at least 15% of supplier/services budget).

 

NRDC uses more than three minority contractors. However, in 2003 fees paid to minority contractors did not meet the threshold of 15% of NRDC's organization wide supplier/services budget.

 

8.     Use services of minority bank (at least one).

 

NRDC uses one large bank for almost all of our banking transactions. The bank is JPMorganChase, which is not minority owned. We also have a mortgage with City Nation Bank of Los Angeles and use Bank of America for our direct mail lock box operations.

 

9.     Total amount of contributions to minority environmental organizations (threshold: 15% budget)

 

While NRDC does not typically make financial contributions to other organizations, NRDC often provides pro bono legal representation and scientific/technical support to organizations of color - assistance that would otherwise cost these groups a substantial amount of money in any given litigation or research endeavor. As already articulated in the answer to Question 6, for an overview of the specific environmental and public health issues on which NRDC has provided legal and scientific support, as well as our community-based partners, please refer to the enclosed brochure entitled, " Environmental Justice: Defending People's Right to a Healthy Environment."

 

10. Percent of budget dedicated to minority staff and minority programs.

 

We do not allocate our budget in this way

 

Bonus: Describe the positive or negative effects of diversity at your organization. Describe your plans to improve diversity at your organization in 2004.

 

[Not completed]

 

AAEA Note: Special thanks to Vernice Miller-Travis for special assistance.

 

Report Card Explanation

 

Each item has a value of 10 points or 10 percentage points.  The ratings include: 100%-80%-Excellent, 70%-50%-Good, Below 50%-Poor  

The Environmental Movement should reflect the demographics of America.  As such, we are using a specific percentage as the basis for evaluating environmental groups.  We believe that a 15% participation rate is a fair measure for applying the criteria listed above.  It also provides a tangible target for groups to measure themselves.  This percentage rate will be applied to appropriate criteria. 

1. Number of professional minority employees (number of nonminority employees). Although many environmental groups have minority employees, they are usually administrative staff, especially the receptionist position.  Professional employees include research assistants, research associates, researchers, lobbyists, and management/accounting-level (CEO, VP, COO, CFO, CPA, Development Director).  We believe that a 15% minority participation rate is reasonable for full ten-point credit.  Ten percent or more—six points.  Five percent or more—three points.

However, we realize that this level of participation will be problematic for traditional environmental organizations because the work environments can be hostile, exclusive, and policy positions can be contrary to personal, racial and cultural beliefs.  Thus, the history of minorities in these positions is poor.  When minorities are hired, the retention rate is poor.   Minority participation will remain poor as long as working environments at environmental groups are hostile and as long as they are unwilling to entertain and adopt minority-friendly policies.

2. Number of administrative minority employees (number of nonminority admin employees).  Groups should score here because it must be comfortable for both parties to interact at this level.  Secretaries, receptionists and typists are important positions for effective and efficient operation of any organization, however, more aggressive efforts should be made to recruit and retain professionals.  This should not be difficult in urban and suburban areas where most environmental groups are located because there is abundant minority talent in these areas.  A 15% participation rate qualifies the group for credit in this category.  Ten percent or more, 6 points. Five percent or more, 3 points. 

3. Percent of minority employees over the past 3 years (average) compared to nonminority employees.  This is a combination of administrative and professional employees over time.  A group, for whatever reason, might have a year where minority employment slips.  However, if there is a low percentage over time, then a clear pattern and practice of discrimination is implied. It also implies that minorities are not aware of positions at these organizations as a result of separate living patterns, cultural disconnects and intent to avoid employing diverse populations.  A 15% combined participation rate qualifies the group for full credit in this category.  Ten percent or more, 6 points. Five percent or more, 3 points.

4. Do you have a formal Diversity Program?    This question requires a simple yes or no response.  If yes, specify program director and range of estimated program budget (e.g., $100,000-$200,000, etc). 

5. Number of minority program managers, project managers, program directors and project directors (number of nonminority program managers and project directors).  These positions are crucial to the implementation of the policies of the organizations.  At least two (2) positions are needed to qualify for full credit in this category.   Five points for one position.

6. Number of formal (programmatic, monetary, managerial) partnerships with minority organizations.  This category includes programmatic partnerships that deal with substantive issues.  This category can include jointly funded and executed programs or programs that are subcontracted to, and executed by, minority organizations.  At least three (3) formal partnerships are needed to qualify for full credit in this category.  Six points for two formal partnerships. Three points for one formal partnership.   

7. Number of minority contractors used for goods and services (at least 3 with at least 15% of supplier/services budget for total credit).  Three points for 1 contractor. Six points for 2 contractors.

8. Use services of minority bank (at least one).

9. Total amount of contributions to minority environmental organizations (threshold: 15% budget).  A group can take credit for this category if 15% of its budget goes to minority organizations.    Six points for 10%. Four points for 5% or more.

10. Percent of budget dedicated to minority staff and minority programs.  A group can take total credit for this category if 15% of its budget is dedicated to minority staff salaries and minority programs.  The credit is 6 points if 10% or more of its budget is dedicated to minority staff salaries and minority programs.  The credit is 4 points if 5% or more of its budget is dedicated to minority staff salaries and minority programs.

Bonus: How has your organization changed due to having a diverse or more diverse staff? In what new areas are you now doing or considering doing business or investing? What new, better or different ways are you communicating to or with the public? In what new geographic areas are you now working or considering? What new or different short term and long term strategies do you now have that you might not have had otherwise? In other words, has it made a substantial or significant difference to your organizational activities and goals to have diversity in significant staff and management levels? Up to 10 points at the discretion of AAEA.

 

Copyright 2003. African American Environmentalist Association. All Rights Reserved. 

 

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