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Why more than 50 environmental justice organizations are conducting pay audits

April 9, 2024

April 9, 2024


By Caroline Colvin. Read at HR Drive.

Pay equity problems in a social justice movement may seem counterintuitive, but the environmental justice movement, according to internal critics, has long been whitewashed. As a former research associate wrote for the Environmental Law Institute, eugenics and Indigenous exclusion along with other forms of racism have kept people of color from advancing in the movement.

Big players in the movement are now coming together under the Green 2.0 pledge, which seeks to hold green employers accountable to paying people of color — especially women of color — equitably.

“We cannot call ourselves an environmental justice movement committed to equitable outcomes if we don’t do these things for our own health internally,” Adriane Alicea, Green 2.0’s managing director, said on a press call in March.

Notable employers that have signed on include the Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Ocean Conservancy, Pew Research Center, the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund.

“Frankly, we will not win on climate change if we allow talented, knowledgeable people to leave the movement because their work isn’t recognized,” Alicea said, noting that people of color have gone as far as they can in the movement. She continued saying that the time is now for a “sustained commitment” to inclusive practice.

Green 2.0’s pay equity pledge provides a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative blueprint for employers looking to up their commitment.

How and why employers tackled their audits

The pledge has three components:

  • Step 1: “Conduct a pay equity analysis of staff compensation to look at differences in compensation in regard to race, ethnicity, and gender.”
  • Step 2: “Collect and analyze relevant data.”
  • Step 3: “Take corrective actions to remediate pay disparities.”

Robyn Arville, chief people and DEI officer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said NRDC partnered with a consulting firm on “an in-depth review of our compensation policies.” The council dissected its existing pay practices, salary ranges, job- level structures, and how demographic data had variously impacted workers’ salaries.

Arville emphasized that taking action — Step 3 — was next. “We can’t promote diversity, equity [and] inclusion unless we’re paying people of color, especially women of color, equitably and fairly,” she said. “That means we will provide comparable pay for similar roles considering experience, performance, skill, tenure, and other neutral factors, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or other status.”

Advocacy group American Rivers had already completed a pay audit before signing the pledge.

Mel Lewis, VP for people justice and cultural affairs, told the audience that her organization completed its audit in fiscal year 2022 with the help of an organizational strategy firm Future Work Design. The pledge and audit came as a result of listening to employees, Lewis said. She recalled that staff “needed more transparency regarding pay equity” and also “expressed a desire to learn more about promotion pathways, merit raises and other opportunities.”

In 2023, American Rivers took Green 2.0’s pay equity pledge, subsequently following the playbook of analyzing data and taking corrective action, Lewis said. The organization created an internal document for pay transparency guidance, including a glossary and salary ranges for each job classification. Then, the guidance was shared with upper-level directors, executives and managers alike.

Meanwhile, Washington Conservation Action came to the pledge by way of its CEO’s own traumatic experiences. Alyssa Macy, a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, recounted “an egregious discrimination situation” when she asked her supervisors to review her salary.

“This was a deeply painful experience and something that no person should go through,” Macy said. “This is really what has spurred us at WCA to be a part of this.” She never wanted her experience to be recreated at her current organization.

Enter Green 2.0. Macy said the conservation group is “breathing life into [its] DEIB commitments.”

“They’re not just words on paper,” Macy said of the pledge. “They are actionable things that we do in all aspects of our work, including human resources.”