Beyond Diversity: A Roadmap to Building an Inclusive Organization

This paper assesses the diversity of staff and boards of directors among large non-profit organizations and foundations working in the environmental sector. The paper argues that diversity is increasingly important within this sector to broaden the base of constituents, increase focus on environmental justice, and bring in a wider range of perspective to successfully identify solutions to environmental challenges. While this paper is not specifically focused on adaptation, it does discuss findings about diversity within organizations that are working in the adaptation space. It also provides best practices strategies to improve diversity that are widely applicable.

The report begins by assessing the attitudes towards diversity at environmental NGOs and foundations. The author finds that many organizations do not have a working definition of diversity and that there is not a shared vision of what defines a diverse organization. Despite this, most understand why diversity is important and how it supports their overall mission. The study provides a review of existing diversity initiatives including diversity plans, managers, and diversity committees - both through the lens of a literature review and based on conversations with environmental NGOs. 

The second section of the report presents a best practices guide for diversity and inclusion. Key recommendations include: 

  • Integrate diversity into the structure, mission, and bottom line 
  • Require accountability, for example by holding staff and managers accountable in annual evaluations
  • Provide incentives
  • Establish a diversity committee or manager at the senior level
  • Develop a comprehensive diversity plan with measures for evaluation
  • Employ metrics  to identify organizational needs 
  • Use metrics to attract more diverse applicants
  • Recognize the limitation of diversity training 

 A companion document published with the report provides statistics on diversity among environmental organizations. 


Publication Date: May 2017

Author or Affiliated User:

  • Maya A. Beasley


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Academic research paper
  • Best practice

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