Marcelo 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:
- 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.
- Communities of color and low-income communities contribute least to climate change and environmental degradation but are most impacted.
- 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.