Tackling systemic racism: a statement from the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability

For the world to become a more socially responsible and sustainable place, systemic racism and inequality must end. Find out what the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability will do to tackle racism and racial inequality through our work and ensure the voices of minority ethnic people are amplified within the sustainability movement.

Like many others within the University community, our department was distressed and angered by a recent high-profile instance of racism against Black people within the United States of America’s criminal justice system. This incident calls for us to examine more robustly the pervasiveness of racism and racial inequality here in Scotland; the role of our own University in historic slavery and colonialism; and our part today in contributing to dismantling and addressing systemic, personal, cultural and societal racism. 

Our position

We support the University’s statement (June 2020) in response, and wish to build on this by detailing our own department's pledge to take individual and collective action to tackle racism and racial inequality through our work. Racism has no place in the more socially responsible and sustainable future we are working to create. 

Racism has no place in the more socially responsible and sustainable future we are working to create.

Environmental inequality and social inequality are deeply entwined. Communities suffering the most from the effects of climate change have often contributed the least towards it; unsustainable consumption in the global North drives biodiversity loss in the global South and negatively impacts human rights in both; and people living in Edinburgh’s most deprived areas - including households in receipt of free school meals - often have reduced access to good quality education, nutrition and other opportunities. In each of these instances, the people affected are more likely to be from minority communities. To be clear: there is an intersection between social inequality, race and environmental degradation. 

Tackling these issues is strongly linked to wealth and privilege, with various barriers preventing marginalised communities from influencing conversations about sustainability. Research suggests that within our own profession just 3.1% of environmental professionals identify as minorities compared to 19.9% within all UK occupations. As a sector-leading sustainability department within a top 20 global University, it is clear we have far more work to do. 

Actions we will take

With this context in mind, the following is a pledge of actions that the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability will take – together with students, staff and other key stakeholders - to tackle racial inequality in our work and ensure the voices and experiences of people of colour are centred in our work and amplified within the environmental movement. 

We will: 

  • Hold an anti-racist workshop for our department to better educate ourselves on racism and how to be better allies to those who experience it  

  • Increase the number of minority ethnic voices we amplify at our events and on our platforms, using sources such as Pass The Mic Scotland

  • Integrate an environmental justice lens into our events and the stories we tell  

  • Promote and engage with the work of the Edinburgh Race Equality Network and RACE.ED on our public facing channels  

  • Create a new section for race issues our blog, The Seed, and expand our Voices of the Planet series that highlights the real-life impacts of the climate crisis on students and staff in our University community and their home countries, focusing on those from the Global South

  • Share a list of resources on anti-racism and racism’s links to the climate crisis for both internal and external audiences 

  • Diversify our own sources of news and information, as well as the sources of information that we share with our audiences and partners  

  • Donate the proceeds of our internal fundraising projects to Score Scotland, a South West Edinburgh anti-racist community charitable organisation promoting social justice and race equality, who also focus on environmental issues

  • Diversify the images used in our department’s communications   

  • Increase our collaboration with Edinburgh University Students' Association's Liberation Officers

  • Broaden where we advertise job vacancies to encourage more diverse applicants

  • Continue to take part in Black History Month each October by running campaigns with a focus on environmental justice and minority ethnic environmental advocates

  • Review the effectiveness of our apprenticeships and internships in reaching and representing minority ethnic students

  • Offer mentoring and talks within the University as well as in local schools and community groups to encourage minority ethnic young people to consider SRS-relevant degrees and careers     

We will hold ourselves accountable to these commitments, accepting that we will not always get it right and so we will be receptive to feedback to help us improve. 

We will hold ourselves accountable to these commitments, accepting that we will not always get it right and so we will be receptive to feedback to help us improve.

In summary, our department – like the University – acknowledges we must take clear actions to ensure that systemic racism and inequality have no place in the more socially responsible and sustainable future we are working to create.  Together, we can make the world a better place.

Find out more

George Floyd case: University statement 

RACE.ED - showcasing teaching, research and Knowledge Exchange & Impact (KEI) in race and decolonial studies at the University of Edinburgh

Liberation campaigns at Edinburgh University Students' Association

Social and Civic Responsibility at the University of Edinburgh