Women, Communities of Color Underrepresented in Renewable-Energy Reporting

ALBANY, N.Y. – A group that funds renewable-energy projects is calling for a new focus on diversity. Funding for nonprofit organizations generally follows media coverage, but a new study from The Solutions Project, a grant-making organization, shows wide gender and racial disparities in media coverage of the renewable energy sector. 

Their analysis of more than 2,300 news and opinion pieces published in 2018 on renewable energy found that only 21 percent referenced women, and fewer than 10 percent referenced communities of color that are disproportionately affected by climate change. According to Project executive director Sarah Shanley Hope, that runs counter to what she learned in business school.

“Diverse teams have far greater results than homogenous teams,” Hope said. “Knowing that and seeing the data here, we’re missing out on solutions and leadership that is all around us.”

Project executive director Sarah Shanley Hope

By 2020, The Solutions Project will invest 95 percent of its resources in front-line groups headed by people of color, with at least 80 percent going to women-led organizations.

Hope said front-line communities that feel the biggest impact of climate change can be great resources for solutions. She pointed to New York state’s first community solar project organized by People United for Sustainable Housing, or PUSH, in Buffalo.

“They redeveloped an abandoned school in their community, turned it into affordable housing for elders, community theater space, and it’s all solar powered,” she said.

Project executive director Sarah Shanley Hope

The Solutions Project is challenging other organizations to reflect the diversity of American leadership by pledging at least 10 percent of their funding to groups led by women of color. Hope added that directing funding to environmental justice communities not only helps get innovative projects off the ground, it also helps spread the word that change is possible.

“Those organizations have, then, the communications capacity to bring their stories into mainstream media, because we’re all looking for those solutions,” Hope said.

Project executive director Sarah Shanley Hope
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