How OEC Uses Our Equity Lens to Inform Our Work
Oregon Environmental Council started our intentional diversity, equity, and inclusion work in 2012. We started this journey by listening and acknowledging that the environmental movement has caused harm and not been as inclusive as it needs to be. In saying this, we want to acknowledge the diverse voices in the movement and not erase their accomplishments. There have always been incredible BIPOC leaders doing environmental and environmental justice work, and we are grateful for and indebted to their accomplishments. Part of our collective work is to change the narrative by not just focusing on white leaders, whether current or historic.
In order to move forward, we fully acknowledge that some environmental efforts have worsened oppression, while others have fallen short of creating benefits for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, such as the green divide on access to clean technology. Black and brown neighborhoods have high levels of air pollution, greater exposure to brownfields, and other contamination. This literally shortens lifespans and limits economic opportunity. Environmental benefits are not equally shared, whether it’s to access to green space, cleaner air, or limiting exposure to toxics in homes and workplaces. And climate damages will hit BIPOC and low-income communities first and worst.
At OEC, we know we have work to do. We are committed to applying an equity lens to both our internal and external work. We are doing trainings and hosting conversations to re-educate ourselves on national and local history, understand how our brains embed bias, unpacking the many systems and cultural institutions that maintain inequities, and refining our role in combating racism. We want to build on work that previously embedded equity into our initiatives—like our Toxic Free Kids Act (passed in 2015) that phases out toxic chemicals in all products, not just those sold to higher-income families.
We are also becoming a more diverse organization and striving to become a truly multicultural place. Diversity leads to better ideas and more complete, longer-lasting solutions.
We’re launching a series to share our work, hold ourselves accountable, and bring you, our valued members, along. This is a journey we can and must take together.
We’ll continue to be the organization that has mattered to Oregon—taking on environmental challenges like climate, water, transportation, and environmental health—and doing it in a way that is collaborative, thoughtful, and evidence-based. We’ll be a reliable source of information and education on emerging trends. We’ll continue partnering across the state, including rural areas. We remain committed to public policy because systemic change is absolutely critical to protecting people and places we love, but we’ll also be doing more capacity building with partners, so that more voices are included in critical environmental decision-making.
We will explore what we’re doing internally (such as hiring practices and fostering the next generation of environmental leaders); how we’re striving to create inclusive, collaborative partnerships; and the questions we ask ourselves when researching and developing new priorities and what inclusive policy looks like. We’ll also be “sharing the mic” and featuring more BIPOC stories and voices.
Thank you for joining us on this critically important and meaningful work.