Author: Pete Dignan, President and COO at Renewable Choice, is a sustainable business leader, collaborating to redefine success in business so all stakeholders are well-served.
At Renewable Choice, we take pride in our progressive business values. We have been a Certified B Corp for more than 4 years, which means that we measure and manage our social and environmental impacts. We are a purpose-driven business, committed to do our part in tackling climate change. For 15 years we have been helping other companies reduce their carbon footprints by providing RECs and carbon offsets.
But, if you take a look at the team photo on our website one thing is pretty obvious – our lack of diversity. Yes, we’re fairly balanced when it comes to gender—a 2013 NREL survey indicates that only 20% of wind industry employees are women and we’re at closer to 43% today—but let’s face it, we’re just so white.
Roughly 20% of Coloradans identify as Hispanic or Latino. If our demographics were similar, we would have 6-7 Latinos on staff—but we have none. African Americans make up only 4% of the Colorado population, but non-white, non-Hispanics account for at least 10%, so we might at least have 3-4 people of color. Instead we have one, and he is a co-founder of the company.
Why is it this way? We have been digging into this question. Some factors include the makeup of our Boulder community—77% of the county is white, and in the city of Boulder itself, the number is closer to 90%—and a high cost of living has been responsible for driving out the middle class. There is also a demonstrated lack of diversity in the environmental sector; less than 15% of employees in environmental firms identify as persons of color.
Our biggest shortcoming, however, is failing to take ownership over the reach of our professional networks and proactivity in our recruiting. We attract most of the people we hire from within our own industry circles, which by its very nature, is self-selecting. We’ve made limited inroads into connecting with applicants of color, and so our pool remains predominantly white.
Why does it matter? It is tempting to rationalize all business decisions by referencing the financial bottom line. Something like “diversity leads to creativity and innovation, which leads to higher profits!” While we wouldn’t argue with that statement, it is also not the only reason to strive for a team that more closely resembles our broader global community.
As a B Corp, we are committed to using business as a force for good – and that means using our business as a vehicle for equal economic opportunity. Marginalizing certain people based on their racial identity, even accidentally or through lack of focused effort, only serves to protect and reinforce white economic privilege. And of course the same is true with respect to sexual orientation and gender expression.
In addition to becoming more intentional in our recruiting and hiring, we have to think about what it means to create an inclusive work culture. It’s not easy to live or work in a place where nobody shares your background, interests, or appearance. What steps can we take to make our office more welcoming? Can we demonstrate that we value diverse opinions, and encourage every voice to be heard? Can we learn to listen without judgement and create safe space for the unfamiliar?
And what about equal pay? We have been committed to equal pay for equal work as long as we have been in business. But gender-based pay gaps are deeply embedded in our society and economy, and have a way of cropping up in surprising places. It can be difficult to find exact apples-to-apples comparisons in terms of experience, skill, and expertise. But that difficulty is no excuse for failing to look carefully at compensation for roles that are similar enough, and making adjustments where warranted. We are implementing a process to ensure this happens at least annually, and perhaps more frequently during periods of rapid growth or change.
Transparency is core to operating a sustainable business. That means openly discussing your financial, environmental, and social performance. It doesn’t feel great to acknowledge that we have a long way to go on these important social metrics, but it is a first step on the path of progress.
Renewable Choice is committed to creating and maintaining an equitable, inclusive work environment that recognizes and respects difference. Check out our Careers Page to view current openings on our team.
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