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Leaking Talent


The environmental movement has historically had a lack of racial diversity across all ranks of the largest NGOs and Foundations. In 2018, Green 2.0 asked the 40 largest NGOs and environmental foundations to report the ethnic diversity of their staff. A large majority of the organizations reported. Among the 40 largest green NGOs, only 20% of the staff and 21% of the senior staff identified as People of Color. Environmental foundations revealed similar numbers with 25% of the staff and 4% of the senior staff identifying as People of Color. In comparison, more than 40% of staff and 17% of executives in the tech sector are People of Color.


However, great efforts have been taken in recent years to increase diversity in the environmental movement. Interviewees attributed much of that change to Green 2.0’s efforts to bring awareness to the issue of diversity and inclusion. In fact, among the NGOs, the 21% of senior staff who are People of Color represents a powerful increase over the previous year’s average of 14%. In contrast, among foundations, there was actually a decrease from 33% to 4% People of Color at the senior staff level over the last year.


Thus, this report focuses on the factors that impact the retention and promotion of People of Color in the environmental movement. Using a blend of qualitative and quantitative data from employees, their HR or diversity managers, and their CEOs, this report examines the factors that impact intent to stay in the organization for People of Color in the environmental movement.



Have I had second thoughts about going into environmental conservation? Yes. If I knew it would be… so exclusive, then I would not have done it. I didn’t really understand the landscape when it comes to diversity until I got in it.

Black Female

Factors that influence employee-reported intent to stay

Top leader reported DEIJ practices and values

Employee-perceived fairness of DEP practices

HR-reported DEIJ practices

Among top-level leaders, including diversity and inclusion commitments in the organization’s mission, vision and values had the strongest effect on perceived fairness in DEP practices and intent to stay across white employees and employees of color. Further, including DEIJ in the strategic planning process was positively related to fairness in DEP practices. For all employees, a focus on employee development and transparency in the promotion process had the most consistent impact on intent to stay.



Efforts to increase diversity focus on the selection, promotion, and retention of people with diverse backgrounds.



The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.



The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued to fully participate where differences are embraced.


Social Justice

Embracing a vision of society in which the distribution of resources and access to decision making is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.



  • Use unconscious bias training
  • Increase pay transparency pay
  • Improve promotion practices
  • Communicate promotion criteria using written documentation, ensure procedures are followed, and advertise internally
  • Increase employee development, ensuring equal access to all
  • Create a diversity committee
  • Create long-term DEIJ goals
  • Develop metrics around DEIJ



Include DEIJ in the strategic planning process


Include DEIJ in the mission, vision, and values of the organization


Increase focus on equity and inclusion


People of Color have lower levels of perceived fairness around development, evaluation, and promotion (DEP) practices and, therefore, lower intent to stay than Whites.



We conducted a quantitative and qualitative study of employees in the environmental movement to measure the factors that increase the intent to stay among People of Color.


Small HR-changes can increase perceived fairness in DEP practices and intent to stay. Including DEIJ in the organization’s strategy and mission increases DEP fairness and intent to stay for White and People of Color. Leading for diversity and inclusion is just good leadership.