News Analysis

Green Groups Still Mostly White, Diversity Study Finds

A new report says that mainstream environmental organizations claim they want to become more diverse but are resistant to including social justice in their missions. 

In 1970, black students at San Jose State College picketed an Earth Week event where a student environmental group spent $2,500 to purchase and bury a brand-new car—money that the black students argued could have been better spent on alleviating poverty. In the months that followed, the Sierra Club polled its membership on whether the organization should consider expanding its agenda to include social justice issues; back then, only 15% were strongly in favor.

This anecdote appears in a new survey of nearly 300 grantmaking foundations, preservation and conservation organizations, and government agencies. The study finds that today’s environmental organizations are still a “green insiders’ club” where minorities are underrepresented in the organizations’ staff and membership and where the significance of social justice issues is still lost on the organization’s leadership.

Published August 22, 2014