Finding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Sustainability

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The triple bottom line and the three-legged stool are common ways to begin explanations of sustainability. The triumvirate includes the environmental, economic, and the social as concerns to be addressed when we want a project to go beyond ‘greenwashing’ and into the realm of sustainability. Another feature of contemporary definitions of sustainability addresses generational change: sustainability is the ability to provide for our needs now, without compromising the means for future generations to do the same.

The EarthWays Center representing sustainability at the Missouri Botanical Garden has taken to heart the contents of Peter Wyse Jackson’s statement, a portion of which appears below, about reopening the Garden and the death of George Floyd.

"We will hire [completed] a dedicated Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Garden, reporting to the President, to guide this work, which will include:

  • Establishing standards, policies, and programs that make our commitment to diversity and inclusion clear to both our Garden family and our visitors;
  • Engaging our staff, our colleagues and experts to have the critical discourse that will both propel us forward and keep us on track;
  • Re-examining our history to acknowledge racist legacies, further recognizing and retelling the story of Henry Shaw’s life;
  • Working locally, nationally and internationally to share best practices and research approaches.
  • Reporting regularly — detailing progress and work still to be done.

"As we go forward, to shape this initiative, we will question, we will consult, we will engage, we will do what it takes such that our staff, colleagues and visitors see themselves and their heritage present in the Garden. We know that we want to be sure that our behaviors always value diversity and respect every individual."

Dr Peter Wyse Jackson
President, Missouri Botanical Garden

For almost a year now the EarthWays and Education teams have been holding voluntary meetings to discuss a fully conscious integration of the spirit of Dr Wyse Jackson’s words. And now, with the installment of Amanda Shields as our Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, we are guided as we’re brainstorming our way to different and creative ways of understanding our work, our outreach, our program design, ourselves and much more.

There are numerous resources created by respected community institutions, authors, and educators which can provide all of us with important background information, one example is this report on Environmental Racism in St. Louis. We also support, and many of us have participated in, the ‘Give Respect, Get Respect’ series run by the Diversity Awareness Project.

We are committed to sustainability, and we want to ensure it includes a triple bottom line commitment to all our community members and this, of course, necessitates a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion for all marginalized groups and accompanying intersections. For us, this has meant introspection on both personal and institutional levels. Becoming involved with Preston Community Garden (see separate piece in this enewsletter) is just one example of moving forward and providing support to a community project in new ways. Another example includes the collaboration of our Outdoor Youth Corps Program and our Sunflower+ Project in Old North.

We will continue to learn and grow as we help plants and people do the same.

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