Environmental Justice Working Definitions

For the purposes of acting on our commitment to achieving equitable solutions to environmental challenges, Oregon Environmental Council has established these working definitions. We welcome your feedback and resources for learning.

EQUITY: Equity is achieved when everyone has access to the opportunities necessary to satisfy their essential needs, advance their well-being and achieve their full potential. The concept of equity provides a case for ensuring that those who have been disadvantaged over time get what’s needed for equal access. This definition comes from the 2017 “Prosper Portland Social Equity Policy”

DIVERSITY: Diversity can mean individual differences (e.g., personality, language, learning styles and life experiences) and group-social differences (e.g., race, class, gender identity, physical ability, geographic location, political and religious affiliations). Just as natural ecosystems benefit from greater diversity, so does society.

INCLUSION: Inclusion is active and intentional engagement of people and groups whose interests should be represented. When it comes to environmental decision-making, our government agencies and our advocacy communities have a responsibility to include people who are most affected by these decisions in the process of developing, implementing, and enforcing laws, regulations, and policies. In the workplace, fostering a culture of inclusion means making room for individual diversity.

JUSTICE: Environmental justice, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is the fair treatment (equity) and meaningful involvement (inclusion) of people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Justice will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental health and hazards, and equal access to environmental decision-making.