Sustainability Must Lift Up Civic Leaders: Racial Equity is Key to Green Design

Originally published in GreenBiz.com on August 17, 2020


Sustainability leaders are architects, designers, city planners, engineers, scientists, energy experts, lawyers, nonprofit leaders and business owners.The United Nations defines "sustainability" as meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of the next generation to meet their own needs. In practice, much of our work centers around developing global climate change solutions to save the planet.


The Black Lives Matter movement has cast a bright light on what we’ve all known for a long time:


We cannot do this work effectively without fighting against white supremacy and putting racial justice at the center of sustainability. 



Sustainability and design must put racial equity at the center. Photo Credit: Wix images.


Sustainability also relies on local government. Despite the pain and heartbreak across the country, we have seen leaders — especially female mayors and local officials such as mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., Lori Lightfoot of Chicago, Vi Lyles of Charlotte, North Carolina, Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California and Jenny Durkan of Seattle — working in their communities to create powerful dialogues and meaningful policy action. In June, Ferguson, Missouri elected its first Black mayor, Ella Jones. 


As sustainability leaders, we must partner with these mayors to implement an anti-racist future.


Whether it be renaming Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street NW in Washington, D.C., or urging protestors and police to congregate peacefully, these leaders are working hard to take action on systemic racism.


Sustainability must put people at the center. But what does this actually mean?


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©2019 by Heather White Strategies, LLC.