UK’s nature sector launches joint plan to improve diversity and inclusion

More than 40 of the UK’s largest nature organisations have agreed to implement a new route map to improve ethnic diversity in the sector, after it was revealed that just one in 20 are already implementing such a plan.

UK’s nature sector launches joint plan to improve diversity and inclusion

Less than 5% of UK nature workers are from ethnic minority backgrounds

The ethnic diversity route map for the sector has been published this week by the Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL), which produced the resource with support from diversity and inclusion specialist Full Colour.

The publication has been developed in recognition of the fact that less than 5% of those employed in the UK’s environment profession are non-white, compared to around 13% of the overall UK workforce. This makes it the UK’s second-least diverse profession, behind farming. WCL has stated that progress on diversity and inclusion remains slow, particularly in smaller organisations which are not well-resourced.

A survey of 225 senior environmental professionals conducted by WCL and Full Colour to inform the route map revealed that while 86% believe that increasing diversity should be a top priority for the sector, only 22% felt that it was prioritized in reality. Moreover, just one in five of the organisations surveyed stated that they have an action plan to tackle diversity and inclusion-related challenges that is being implemented “consistently”.

This survey was part of a broader poll of 2,004 environment professionals – of which just 98 (less than 0.5%) were from an ethnic minority background. More than one in ten of these professionals said there is covert racism in the sector. Overall, these professionals rated their employers’ policies less favourably than their white colleagues.

Full Colour’s chief executive and founder Srabani Sen said the survey findings indicated that “the will to change is there, but organisations were unclear where to start and what action to take to create change” – as well as how to keep this action “consistent”.

Sen added: “There is still a huge mountain to climb in removing the barriers to entry and career progression that people of colour face, and in making these organisations truly welcoming and inclusive places to work.”

Designed with the ambition of driving meaningful change within a five-year period, the route map recommends that HR and management functions undertake inclusion training this financial year and use their learnings to change learning opportunities. Organisations should then make public, time-bound commitments and set up reporting mechanisms and benchmark data.

Crucially, it emphasises the importance of organisations in the sector collaborating with each other to share learnings and ensure that there are not gaps in understanding and governance.

So far, 42 organisations have signed up to follow the route map. They include RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and Natural England.

“We are in a nature and climate emergency and we save nature through people, all people,” said RSPB’s chief executive Beccy Speight. “We need to be joining with people from all backgrounds in leading, championing, and accessing nature. This route map highlights uncomfortable truths but is essential in reinforcing the crucial work needed to increase ethnic diversity and meaningful inclusion across the conservation sector, especially for people of colour.

“We are determined to get this right because it will take all of us to turn the tide for nature.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie