Back in mid-2020, we found ourselves – like the rest of the country and world – dealing with COVID quarantine, shifting our office space to a virtual platform, and processing the flood of emotions that came in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Eighteen months later, we are in a world forever altered by both COVID and racial, economic, and social injustice demanding not only our attention but our action.
In this last year-and-a-half, it has never been more clear that we must address systemic inequities. Collectively, we have a unique opportunity to examine the ways we can create more significant impact in the fight for equal justice, a stable and hospitable climate, and public health and wellness.
At NEEP, we believe thatto help combat injustices and make the benefits of energy efficiency more accessible to and impactful for all. And this work requires new partnerships, program models, and goals.
“Partnerships” is an integral part of NEEP’s name. We regularly think about how we collaborate and who we bring together. We value diversity. However, we’re a largely white organization in a largely white industry, and we know we have an imperative to do more. We find ourselves examining what it means to really center diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work, both internally and externally. We’d like to share some of what we’ve learned.
If we don’t say it, we won’t do it. Voicing our commitment, setting goals and a plan, and thinking about the ways we wanted change is how we started. We turned inward to assess our organizational culture, understand our competencies and biases, and develop shared language.
Actions Matter More
We know that talk is just talk until backed up by actions. We set aside resources – both human and financial – for this work, and we hired a consultant to help lead the way. We went through trainings on a variety of topics, including emotional intelligence, implicit bias, and better understanding our own identities. We created space to have difficult conversations. We built tools to better center diversity, equity, and inclusion in our external program work.
Humility Matters Most
This is hard, long-term work. It takes everyone. And it’s not always going to feel good. We engage deeply and authentically, making this an organizational priority. We are committed to continuous learning and putting the needs of the people we serve first and foremost.
We also know that there are many organizations who have done wonderful work in this area, and we recognize that our own contributions are built on the work and wisdom of others. We acknowledge that the energy equity conversation has been ongoing for many years and that we are not experts.
All of our work is in service to our mission of accelerating regional collaboration to promote advanced energy efficiency and related solutions in homes, buildings, industry, and communities. We know we must cut greenhouse gas emissions from buildings for the benefit of everyone – and we know that marginalized communities must be prioritized in this work. Solutions that reduce energy and carbon must also improve the health, safety, comfort, and affordability of homes and buildings, and create valuable, well-paid local jobs.
We are committed to listening, learning, and doing in the space where equity and environment meet. And we know that discovering and supporting an equitable low-carbon future will take time, empathy, hard work, and courage. Most importantly, we know we don’t have all the answers. We hope we can lead by example in our region and our field – and that means doing our part to continually educate ourselves on the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Along the way, we’ll be compassionate with ourselves, with our audiences, and with our communities. We look forward to joining you on this journey.
Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing regular updates on our own journey and highlighting some of the resources we’re developing to help the energy efficiency industry better center diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the ways we think about and execute our work. Stay tuned.