Have you noticed that environmental issues are often talked about in the theoretical? How they’re often bolstered by statistics of what life will be like for our children’s children? How many times have you heard the narratives: “we need to reach net zero by 2050…” or “sea levels will rise by 50cm by 2100 if we don’t reduce our emissions…”? Statements like these are harrowing truths, but they often miss a major fact: climate change is already killing us, and killing Black and Brown communities disproportionately at alarming rates.
Currently, people of color are more likely to die of environmental causes — over 50% of the people who live near hazardous waste facilities are people of color and regions in the U.S with the most cancer-related air pollution are communities of people of color. Last year, our Chief Innovation Officer Cheryl Contee worked with the Bullitt Foundation for Earth Day’s 50th anniversary to build ad and influencer campaigns targeting BIPOC communities to build awareness and provide information. Ad campaigns that resonated across the board were those that showed clear, diverse representation, and those that made a clear through line between public health, racial justice, and the environmental movement.
This begs the question: if these communities are disproportionately affected by climate change now — why is the CleanTech space so white?
A 2019 study showed that senior executives at U.S. solar companies were 80% male and nearly 90% white. In 2020, Black-owned firms represented only 7% of all US businesses and Hispanic-owned firms represented 10.6%. One can extrapolate how much smaller those percentages get when measuring the number of Black and Brown founders who have received venture capital funding in the CleanTech space.
When founders of color are excluded from the ability to innovate, the environmental movement fundamentally lacks accountability for climate change’s racial and intersectional inequities. The only way we can begin to solve the climate crisis is by centering the solutions to climate change in the communities most impacted. The most effective way we can do this is by investing in those developing innovation within these affected communities and seeking them out as suppliers and vendors.
Over at The Impact Seat, we’re proud to invest in excluded founders fighting for environmental justice, such as Kuli Kuli Foods, TerViva, and Rally. From investing in clean food to sustainable agriculture, to transportation, we’re committed to investing in the betterment of our people and our world. If you’re interested in leading the charge for a more sustainable, more equitable planet, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.