Sitting with Discomfort in Working Towards Social Equity

As a proponent of regenerative design, the International Living Future Institute works to advance a future that is socially just, as well as ecologically restorative. 

Expanding on green buildings—which emphasizes renewable energy and efficiency goal—the Institute’s work also prioritizes equity and justice in buildings and the organizations that shape them. To achieve this objective, the Institute created the Just program to foster transparency and accountability around social justice. 

Yet transparency can be a double-edged sword, especially for the vast majority of organizations that are either mid-way through a process or starting their journey of alignment around justice and equity goals. 

As a person of color and as one of the people responsible for Just, I wanted to offer my perspective from when I evaluated a job opportunity at the Institute. 

A Just label is like a “nutrition label” for socially just and equitable organizations. Instead of calories and sugar content, however, the label offers information about what good looks like in socially equitable workspaces. 

Just promotes a spirit of transparency by sharing relevant company policies through the Just database. Having the ability to thoroughly review an employee handbook before accepting a job offer should be common practice, for example. 

As I considered the job offer, I naturally reviewed the Institute’s Just label

At first glance I noticed the areas where the organization achieved Level 4 on the label. I saw that ILFI excels at gender diversity, engagement, full-time employment, pay scale equity, healthcare, charitable giving, and positive products, which are important organizational “ingredients” I value in a workplace. Seeing the achievements provided a sense of ease, knowing that I would be working for an organization that is committed to having equitably paid full-time staff, comprehensive healthcare benefits, and commitment to stewardship. 

An imperative aspect of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is to be transparent about your offerings. Seeing the high achievement levels from the Institute provided comfort right up front.

But what about places where the Institute earned levels 1, 2, or 3, indicating room for improvement? 

It’s hard to ignore the indicators with lower scores. Looking at the ILFI label, I admit this gave me some pause. Ethnic diversity, for example, is something I look for in all organizations, since I value being in spaces and communities where racial and ethnic diversity is embraced. Although, since I knew about the score from the outset, I was able to talk with others who work at the Institute before I joined the organization. Now that I’m part of the organization, I am comforted knowing that ILFI is having meaningful conversations about how to build a race-equity culture in the organization and I can be part of those conversations as well. 

For the other indicators, it is also nice to see the commitment to growth from my colleagues. For example, on inclusion, we get a weekly office survey to collect and report on our employee satisfaction and engagement levels, which is supported by the Just label. I’m glad to see the transparency reported on the label so there’s an opportunity for accountability and improvement. 

No organization is perfect, but intentional efforts are key and I’m appreciative that a Just label can inspire this kind of progress.

As an employee of an organization with a Just label, I’m pleased to see the Institute take on this effort. It’s a valuable exercise that I hope many others will undergo. Just labels allow employees to point towards areas of improvement with baseline and self-reported data. It’s exciting to have the label inform the Institute’s own DEI journey! Moving towards social equity and justice requires transparency at the forefront. Just labels set a clear baseline and provide a trail map for organizations to move forward on their DEI journeys.

Written By

Charles Espedido

Charles Espedido (he/him) is the Senior Manager for the Just program and is responsible for helping to advance Just, ILFI’s transparency platform for socially just and equitable organizations. Charles works to inspire organizations to pursue Just, provide customer support, submission reviews, and label drafting.