Making an organizational commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion

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Late last month, Fresh Energy unveiled its first statement on our organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The statement outlines how we will measure this commitment throughout all aspects of our work and is a foundation for us to build equity at the base. But that wasn’t the first step; this statement did not come together out of the simple recognition that equity is important. Fresh Energy has been building towards this since the formation of the Energy Access and Equity program early last year. Beginning this work internally was important so that we could be clear about what we mean when we say equity. We have placed it as part of our guiding principles and program areas, and now it is positioned as a mechanism to overlay our existing work. 

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) statement is the first goal completed by the staff DEI committee. The committee consists of 11 staff from across almost all sectors of the organization. While the committee is made up of self-selected individuals, that of course does not mean that staff not on the committee are not committed to the work! We have instituted a DEI buddy system so that other staff stay informed, have a platform to express ideas and concerns, are included in decisions, and have a peer to learn with together. This has allowed for more conversation among us to reflect and challenge ourselves and our organizational culture. The committee has worked on a few initiatives already with this concrete step of crafting Fresh Energy’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement. As we worked through the statement, it begged us to acknowledge where Fresh Energy has been and where we are trying to go.

Fresh Energy has not until now had a committed effort to understanding the privilege, access and power that the organization holds and how that perpetuates under-representation within the organization and the spaces that we work in. We all likely hold personal commitments to equity, fairness and justice; but it is another task to place these values in the center of energy policy that does not always explicitly demand or demonstrate equity.

Fresh Energy is a well-resourced organization, with white leadership, and access and proximity to power. With this comes the equally important recognition of what role we can hold in the energy policy landscape to elevate equity and share power, without diverting resources away from those doing environmental justice work. Further, we need to ask what changes we need to make to authentically call out inequities we want to change.

Finally, we are challenging ourselves to be reflective on who we are as individuals, what values we hold and how those values translate to the work we do. We are asking ourselves hard questions. As people working in this collective system, we must actively fight oppression, white supremacy, and inequality. We must identify the ways in which these problems appear in energy policymaking. We can no longer pretend they do not—rather, we need to look more closely at the ways in which they do.

We’ll be putting our diversity, equity and inclusion work into practice over this year and far into the future. Stay tuned for updates!