Sustainability, My 2020 Report Card

Sustainability has been coined as the triple bottom line (Equity, Earth, and Economy). We have seen our industry move forward with many regulations around Earth and the economy. This includes AB32 in 2005, CalGreen in 2010, and so on. Our state is a leader, it has created many prescriptive mandates and grants to ensure sustainability is part of our built environment.

The sustainability business has gained traction over the  years. However, 2020 has given us the opportunity to look in – on the third part of sustainability, equity.

The COVID statistics across the country have shown black, latino, and indigenous (BIPOC) populations have higher incidence rates. Our State, LA County and LA City statistics are not any different. People of color profoundly knew of this disparity, it being life and death. Now it has a new statistic to add to the systemic structures that support these divisions. Due to this clear separation, we have seen a movement dynamically boom before our eyes in the last month through Black Lives Matter for equity, a social justice demand to merely breathe. The Black Lives Matter movement underscores and highlights a clear and transparent historical systemic imbalance due to color. 2020 again has given us a raw view of the truths of our systems and how the system clearly does not support people of color.

We can say to ourselves that our sustainability community and industry are immune. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not. As a latina and part of the sustainability community for almost 20 years, I can confirm this point by experience. However, I give credit to the LA County Office of Sustainability for not writing one word of their sustainability plan until they heard from the public. Nevertheless, I have had countless conversations with women of color BIPOC in the last four years and many just this last year. We don’t feel represented at events hosted by USGBC-LA or we feel like a “token”. There have been countless rooms, including Zoom meetings, where I have experienced the lack of relatability or concern to find creative solutions on Equity.

Overall, what I have come to terms with, is if equity is not meaningful in our internal systems, how can I expect it to be shown in our outputs. One of my colleagues who has been part of the USGBC-LA said, “we are constantly squeezing our work around inclusivity into what we believe sustainable work is. We are willfully ignorant in helping to address issues that do not serve us directly and we have to step away from that practice if we are going to meaningfully address sustainability for all communities.”

I’m always for acknowledging concerns, and then to move on to addressing and providing solutions. These are my solutions for equity, and the following is a request to USGBC-LA and all sustainability networks to adopt them. This is your opportunity:

  1. Listen to the voices of BIPOC before creating an Equity Plan.
  2. Create an Equity Plan with 10 annual initiatives that support BIPOC and disadvantaged communities.
  3. Include an equity road for students, professionals, and the public in the Equity Plan.
  4. Include how the public will be educated in tandem to the green building practitioners in the Equity Plan. This includes how the sustainability networks will partner with the public on all educational output materials to empower the community to develop solutions for sustainability.
  5. Include a diverse (people of color) panel (50% or more) at events. The diversity percentage is not solely someone with “Diversity” in his/her title. It should be someone in the field of the topic.
  6. Request that all sponsors provide their Equity and Outreach Plan to USGBC-LA.
  7. Post sponsor equity and outreach plans on the USGBC-LA website for all sustainability networks to review and use as a template.

Please join the conversation by leaving your thoughts below.

About the Author

Patty MenjivarPatty Menjivar has experience in program management of sustainability, climate change initiatives, and environmental compliance programs for Fortune 100 and agencies across LA County. As Sustainability Manager, she has served as Sustainability Consultant to private firms, State Agencies and Utilities and is an appointed founding member to La County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Sustainability Council. Ms. Menjivar is the Chair of Kleinfelder’s Governance and Sustainability committee, driving Kleinfelder’s global team to set and meet sustainability goals in innovative approaches while applying the triple bottom line and circular economy systems process. Ms. Menjivar is a Los Angeles native.

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