A new non-profit organization started by four people of colour aims to increase diversity, inclusion and equity in the growing sustainability field.
Marie Jurcevic, co-founder of Diversity in Sustainability, formed the not-for-profit group with Heather Mak, Michael Harvey and Rida Bilgrami in June 2020 on the heels of the heightened activism around racial injustice and racial inequity in the United States related to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I have spent a lot of time reflecting and thinking about my own experience and things that I can do,” said Jurcevic. “But I really felt that I was past reflection and really wanted to do something.”
Jurcevic, a manager of sustainability at Seven Generations Energy Ltd., calls the initiative her “passion project.” She said the sustainability field isn’t very diverse, which presented the opportunity to turn conversations into action.
“We don’t want to duplicate efforts because I do recognize that there are a number of initiatives happening related to diversity, but not in our field,” said Jurcevic. “And we think that that’s a unique opportunity. The field of sustainability practice is growing. I’ve been doing this for my entire career. And when I look at opportunities in the field, when I first graduated in 2009, there were very few opportunities within the field.”
The organization recently launched a survey to gather information and inform its work from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) who are interested in pursuing sustainability, and those who are helping companies advance their social and environmental commitments that might not have sustainability in their title.
“We’re trying to get input from Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, but also allies in the space to say this is what sustainability looks like and to understand how inclusive it is,” said Jurcevic. “We’re hoping that the input that we’re getting from diverse practitioners will help us understand and once we have a good understanding, it’ll also help us develop programs that we’re offering.”
The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Sustainability survey can be found here. Responses will be aggregated into a research paper that will be published later this year. The survey closes early in March.
The ultimate goal is “to equip BIPOC with the skills, networks and resources to accelerate the transition to a sustainable and just future.”
The group is working on its programming including mentorship programs, profile building, webinars, ally programs, in-person events, education programs and focus groups. It is also in the process of establishing an advisory panel.
“We intend this work to be quite collaborative,” said Jurcevic. “We’ve also spent a fair bit of time doing our homework and research and understanding what initiatives currently exist and the similarities and possible opportunities to collaborate.”
The target audience market is in North America and within the United Kingdom as one co-founder is based in the U.K. and all four have ties in the U.K. and across all industries related to sustainability.
Turning to her day job, Jurcevic said there is an opportunity for more diverse voices in the energy sector.
“Diverse perspectives are important as we’re looking to move towards energy transition,” she said. “Diversifying the voices of people that participate in those conversations is important to foster innovation. Working in the sector is something I’m really proud of and it’s important to me. So I want to emphasize the importance of diversity in the energy sector more broadly, not just in sustainability.”