The clean energy industry is notoriously homogeneous, on the side of business and technology as well as in terms of who reaps the benefits. It additionally caters to folks in more economically and environmentally advantaged communities. In 2019, only 7.6 percent of the solar industry's workforce identified as Black or African American - a little more than half as many as the overall percentage of Black Americans in the U.S. workforce. Residents in Black- and Hispanic-majority neighborhoods are also disproportionately impacted by environmental issues like pollution from dirty power plants. These individuals are much less likely to have rooftop solar or clean energy access than residents in primarily-white neighborhoods.
Enhancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In the wake of George Floyd's murder in 2020, Leyline set out to ensure we are actively anti-racist in everything we do. We created goals to identify areas in education, finance, and employment where we could enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and support systemic change. In the past 18 months, we developed a number of educational initiatives and opportunities. This includes working with students at local high schools, attending career fairs at HBCUs, and hosting internships to help Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals break into the renewables field. At the end of last year, our team completed a workshop hosted by Aya Consulting, a Black and woman-led firm that works to educate and help with strategic DE&I planning. These trainings will continue quarterly throughout 2022.
But when it comes to combating systemic racism, these types of efforts are some of the easiest. We spoke with Erica Reidy, our associate director of project finance and a member of the Leyline Addressing Racism (LAR) group, to learn more about plans for 2022. She notes:
"This year, LAR is making a concerted effort to hone our goals and create more targeted, actionable items to combat systemic racism. We want to operationalize in a more effective way, working on a few large, tangible initiatives rather than scattering our efforts so much that there's minimal impact."
Expansion Plans into New Areas
The group created four different committees, each with a specific focus: community service, a fellowship program, internal growth development, and company-wide DE&I integration.
Actions for these committees will include launching fundraising opportunities, logging where employees may volunteer outside of work and creating space to support them, and encouraging community service in every aspect of business. We also are working to create a fellowship program that will function as an external nonprofit, designed to expose underrepresented, minority students to the range of career opportunities possible in sustainability, while fostering their entrepreneurial ambitions through a collaborative network of educators and sustainability professionals.
Next, Leyline will focus on internal DE&I growth. Reidy notes that it's important that this goes beyond the basic step of diversifying hiring. The growth and development group will host DE&I trainings, bring in guest speakers, and maintain an internal resource library for employees to diversify the information they absorb. This may include compiling books and podcasts on anti-racism, Black history, historically accurate American history, and more. "We hope to fully develop an internal ecosystem of sorts that creates an educated, kind, thoughtful, and inclusive workspace," says Reidy.
The final committee will ensure that there is company-wide DE&I implementation. This will include developing internal metrics that measure progress and track accountability, creating cross-disciplinary DE&I guidelines, and hiring a DE&I manager. Leyline will also craft a set of policies and anti-racism actions for our public-facing work. It is important for us to standardize how we integrate DE&I into our origination and capital deployment. We want to work with diverse development teams and fund opportunities that have a strong impact in communities underrepresented in the clean energy revolution.
Community Solar as an Example
Community solar development is one way we are beginning to work on these initiatives. Community solar provides clean and affordable energy to those who don't own their homes or who can't afford their own rooftop solar - as is the case in many underrepresented communities. It is important that we figure out the best way to identify these projects, encourage growth, and create a set of practices to make them more affordable. We want to put our money to work in the best possible way.
Leyline knows there is much to do in order to actively combat systemic racism. We are prepared to keep listening, learning, growing, and putting in the work to create a clean energy space and society that is equitable for all. If you are a developer who is working on community solar and other DE&I projects, have ideas about enhancing clean energy access, and/or may want to collaborate, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.
You can learn more about our Leyline Addressing Racism initiatives by contacting Erica Reidy at email@example.com.