Author Archives: cndigilio

Green Line Series Interview | Serilda Summers-McGee

Serilda Summers-McGee HeadshotSerilda Summers-McGee is the Owner of Workplace Change, LLC, a company that exists to help organizations assess their workplace culture, creatively resolve identified workplace challenges, recruit under-represented executives and staff, and retain high quality employees in an inclusive, positive, and high functioning work environment.

She is also the author of book Change the Workgame: Building and Sustaining a Diverse Workforce, which instructs readers on the best and worst practices of recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce through the use of case studies from Serilda’s consulting experiences.

Serilda will be leading the Diversifying Your Workforce workshop at this year’s GoGreen Conference on October 17. She shared with us some of her best practice takeaways from her upcoming workshop.


GoGreen: The terms ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ have become quite cliche in today’s work environment. What does ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ mean to you?

Serilda: Diversity is about the “who”- who are you allowing to have access to your organization. Inclusion is the “how”- how are they treated once they get there.

The reason why it is cliche, and why we need to unpack it, is that organizations tend to tokenize the “who”, saying they need one or two of a particular group. They are focused on whatever group they feel the most guilty about- black people, Latino people, disabled people, etc.

They aren’t talking about changing a system, a system that lends itself to people not having access. They are talking about placing one or two people in their organization for aesthetic purposes. That is not the essence of diversity and inclusion, but instead dilutes the purpose and intentionality behind the terminology for why it was originally created. We need to have an environment where people from underrepresented backgrounds can actually thrive, be exactly who they are, and bring all that beauty to the table to create more beauty when aggregated with people from other walks of life.

GoGreen: Why should Diversity and Inclusion matter to businesses when hiring?

Serilda:  There are a ton of studies, proposals, and presentations about how diversity and inclusion strengthen your bottom line. That’s a very capitalistic, self-centered, and selfish stance to have on why it is in the best interest of a leader to have an inclusive environment.

It’s true, their business will thrive. But it is also in their best interest because it is the right thing to do. Today in the Trump era, humanities is an after thought. But for me, I’m in this work because I see the way people are hurt in their workplace and they come home and they are not the best mother or partner they can be. Stress, anxiety, anger and resentment manifest themselves in very physical ways. So, business people should care because diversity and inclusion create a healthy environment for people to prosper.

Managers and leaders should care because it is human nature to take direction from the people in power. If the CEO doesn’t care, you won’t care, and it is a vicious cycle of hurting people. And by the way it also helps your bottom line. But if that’s all you care about you’ll never fix the challenges in the workplace.

People bring the best versions of themselves to the workplace when they are happy and if you don’t have a supportive work environment and you have an exclusive work environment, people who are not part of the majority will not be the best versions of themselves. And that can hurt productivity. But it is bigger than that.

GoGreen: Can you speak to the intersections of Diversity in the workplace and sustainability? How can diversity support your bottom line?

Serilda:  I will always pivot away from the discussion of capitalization of underrepresented people. This is controversial, but I’ve been saying it and I’ll continue to say it: the commodification of underrepresented folks, predominately black and latino people, could be equated to slavery. It’s just like saying “how can slaves make your business more sustainable?” You aren’t talking about them as a person and creating an environment for them to thrive in. It is the same argument that was made for why slavery should have been sustained. It was all about business, profitability and capitalism.

The whole bottom line narrative is very loaded and very problematic. A lot of people are jumping on the diversity bandwagon and bringing on people of color and women but treating them  like crap when they get there. We tell them that they are there to help them grow the business, but they don’t get a voice. The moment they actually have a voice and are articulating the challenges that exist is the moment they are kicked out. The white leadership get afraid because they moved into the diversity realm from a position that it is going to benefit the bottom line and not from a humanistic perspective. It is based entirely on self-interest and capitalistic in nature. And capitalism is about exploitation. But sure, diversity will sustain your business, but only if you treat people properly once they are there.

GoGreen:  That is an interesting point, which brings up the question of how can we get business owners to care about diversifying their workforce not to benefit their bottom line, but because it is the right thing to do?

The right-thing-to-do argument will fall on deaf ears because business owners generally have bought into the American dream and capitalism. My objective is to enlighten and open people’s minds to what is going on inside their organizations. I want to go beyond the bottom line and talk about how people are treated once they are in the system. We need to stop treating people as a commodity.

People will do better if they knew better. Once people are aware, they have the choice of whether they want to extract and exploit, or include and invite and then capitalize on the beauty that they create.

GoGreen:  Your workshop at GoGreen will be discussing how to change the status-quo. What are some challenges that you anticipate business leaders will face when Diversifying their workforce?

Serilda: There are two arguments for the challenges of diversifying the workplace: “I can’t keep them”, or “I can’t find them”. It is hard for me to believe that someone can create a business from concept to completion, but can’t find minorities for your workforce. I think that is hogwash – it just means you aren’t passionate about it. You need to go out there and do the work.

I will be making these points at the conference, but also I’ll be providing tools for your toolbelt on how to get you there, along with some inspiration. I know that people care, and I know we get there. If you are brilliant enough to start a business, you are brilliant enough to solve this problem. You can figure out how everyone can be treated with the same amount of respect and integrity that the predominate community gets treated.


To hear more from Serilda Summers-Mcgee, join us for Diversifying Your Workforce: A Workshop to Take Inventory and Define Your Approach to Disrupt the Status Quo at the GoGreen Conference on October 17. Register here.

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Green Line Series Interview | Marcelo Bonta, Philanthropy Northwest Momentum Fellow, Meyer Memorial Trust

marcelo bonta 1Marcelo Bonta is a trailblazer on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in the environmental movement. He is currently the Philanthropy Northwest Environmental Fellow at Meyer Memorial Trust, where he is helping to develop and implement a new environmental program with equity at its foundation. Marcelo also is the founder of the Center for Diversity and the Environment (CDE) and the Environmental Professionals of Color (EPOC).

Marcelo will be sharing his perspective on our community’s victories and challenges in sustainability over the last 10 years in GoGreen’s opening plenary entitled Driving Forward: A 10-Year Retrospective with Portland’s Sustainable Business Leaders.


GoGreen: When you think back on the last 10 years, what do you think of as the biggest win for our community in terms of sustainability?

Marcelo: The biggest win is that equity is becoming a core component of sustainability. Sustainability would not have survived for the long term without equity.

Here are some reasons why equity is so important:

  1. Demographics have shifted and will continue to shift as we are becoming a more racially diverse society.  Our nation will be over 50% people of color within the next 25 years.    
  2. Communities of color and low-income communities contribute least to climate change and environmental degradation but are most impacted.
  3. Polls and surveys demonstrate that communities of color support sustainability, climate change solutions, and environmental protection at higher rates than whites.

Therefore, it only makes sense that communities of color are front and center in any sustainability decision-making tables.

While we have made substantial gains, we still have a long way to go to fully integrate equity and sustainability.  I am looking forward to participating in this powerful evolution over the next ten years.

GoGreen: When it comes to equity, diversity, and inclusion, what do you see as our biggest opportunity for growth going forward?

Marcelo:  Communities of color have the most to lose and the most to gain when it comes to climate change impacts and environmental degradation. We have a great opportunity now to build environmental capacity for people of color-led organizations and to follow the lead of communities of color.

Secondly, we can work towards building diversity, equity, and inclusion capacity of sustainability organizations. When these capacities are built, both camps will be more effective at partnering together and building powerful coalitions.

GoGreen: What are some of the ways that the Meyer Memorial Trust is working with local organizations and communities in Oregon to advance equity in the workplace?

Marcelo: Meyer recognizes organizations that are advancing equity and supports them by  investing in their growth.  One way Meyer does this is by providing resources to organizations to build diversity, equity, and inclusion capacity.

Meyer is also on its own equity journey, so it is doing this work in partnership. The hope is a permanent cultural shift towards equity, so that Meyer can achieve its vision of “a flourishing and equitable Oregon.”

GoGreen:  What is one takeaway that you’d like local business leaders to get from the plenary that you’ll be taking part in at the GoGreen Conference on October 17?

Marcelo: Equity and inclusion is core to sustainability work and needs to be fully integrated.  If not, the sustainability movement will fail.  If we do, the sky’s the limit in what will be achieved and how much influence sustainability will have in all aspects of society.

As the population of people of color continues to grow, so does its buying power.  According to Statista, the U.S. Latino buying power is $2.7 Trillion in 2017. What it comes down to is equity is smart business.


The Meyer Trust works with and invest in organizations, communities, ideas and efforts that contribute to a flourishing and equitable Oregon. Find out more about what they do at https://mmt.org/.

Event Details: The GoGreen Portland Conference will take place Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at the Gerding Theater (Portland Center Stage). Tickets are available at portland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503.226.2377.

GoGreen Conference Receives 2017 Travel Portland Sustainability Award

At the 2017 Travel Portland Awards Breakfast this morning, GoGreen Conference was recognized for outstanding work in building programs that enhance Oregon’s exceptional quality of life and strengthening Portland and Oregon’s leadership in sustainability.

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Ericka Dickey-Nelson, Founder and President of GoGreen Conference, was on hand to accept the award among government representatives, business leaders and community members working to make Portland a better place and a highly sought after international destination.

“We are thrilled to be recognized for our 10 years of work driving sustainable business practices forward in our regional community”, said Ericka Dickey-Nelson, Founder and President of GoGreen Conference. “Portland, Oregon has long been recognized as a global leader in sustainable practices and our annual conference puts the spotlight on the exciting innovative practices starting here in this city.”

The award comes at a particularly exciting time as this year marks the 10th anniversary GoGreen Conference, which will take place October 17, 2017 at the Gerding Theater (home of Portland Center Stage) in Portland, Oregon. The mission of the conference is to drive sustainable best practices in organizations, and facilitate collaboration with regional innovators, entrepreneurs and sustainability champions who will share their stories and reinforce the ultimate goal of increasing sustainability in business to create a healthier company, economy and climate.


Attend GoGreen Portland 2017

GoGreen Portland 2017, brought to you by the City of Portland and Prosper Portland, will take place on Tuesday, October 17 at the Gerding Theater at the Armory (Portland Center Stage), located at 128 NW 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97209. Tickets are available online at portland.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 503.226.2377.