February 5, 2021

Environmental Justice Demands Racial Justice

Organizers at the 2017 People's March for Climate, Jobs & Justice in Portland.

Meyer Memorial Trust heartily embraces the Donors of Color Climate Funders Justice Pledge as a benchmark for foundations dedicated to a thriving environment.

As a regional funder in a state with demographics that still reflect Oregon’s founding as a white utopia, a pledge to reach a 30 percent goal of BIPOC-led environmental organizations feels both inspired and aspirational. In some parts of the country, such a threshold is achievable in short order; in Oregon, where 76 percent of residents identify as white, we may fall short of the target, despite our deep commitment to racial justice. But we believe in the necessity of goals that keep funders reaching forward, in partnership and in pursuit, and accept the challenge to give even more thought and creativity to mobilize for environmental justice right in our backyards.

Considering the pledge, we took a look at Meyer’s environmental grantmaking in 2018 and 2019. At present, we don't have demographic data from many of our grantees and it’s not yet a requirement that they submit this to get a grant. We have taken the approach of encouraging and supporting their movement toward adopting this practice by discussing the issue with them and sharing best practices information, etc., so that more groups that we fund will collect demographic data on their board and staff over time. In taking the DOC Climate Funders Justice Pledge, we aim to be transparent about our own status as an intentional equity funder.

  • Meyer made 199 grants totaling $15 million to organizations through our Healthy Environment portfolio and Willamette River Initiative during these two years. A quarter of the grants went to organizations, including Tribes, where people identified as BIPOC made up 50 percent or more of the staff and/or board. Fully half, 100, went to organizations that did not have demographic data to share. The remainder went to organizations with staff or board makeup of less than 50 percent BIPOC individuals.
  • Meyer already uploads all its grants, including environmental/climate ones, through the Candid eReporting portal.
  • Although we are committed to increasing the percent of environmental grant funding to organizations that are run by, serve and build power for communities of color, we do not have complete data on this, particularly which ones have a majority of BIPOC and executive staff, although we do maintain some similar data. This is a longtime work in progress.

One more note: An advantage of Oregon's unique demographic makeup and Meyer’s funding is that we are able to provide support to and partnership with Indigenous organizations, as well as the nine federally recognized Tribes in the state. We are grateful to be able to amplify Native voices and support sovereignty in a state that is home to people descended from more than 380 Tribes.

And we are driven to apply the spirit of the pledge to our other portfolios — Building Community, Equitable Education and Housing Opportunities — as well as initiatives related to immigrants and refugees, public education and our most recent initiative, Justice Oregon for Black Lives. Justice Oregon, a $25 million, five-year commitment of dedicated funding to deepen support for Black-centered organizations, invests in long-term lasting strategic change and uplifts a just system of community well-being to improve conditions for all Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in Oregon, and in turn, for all Oregonians.

With knowledge and intent comes power and deeper impact.

Michelle