Equity & Access
Climate change and social inequities are directly related, and frontline communities are already experiencing the “first and worst” effects of climate change, continuing injustice and “often lack basic infrastructure to support them and … will be increasingly vulnerable as our climate deteriorates” (Ecostrust).
This year, we are building on the learnings from the Equity & Access Track and making it a core component of how we work with startups across our entire portfolio. We want to work with companies who are committed to this mission, and are open to examining their internal and external work to strengthen and incorporate equity.
We have learned that there is no shortcut or silver bullet to becoming an equitable company. Elemental will provide guidance and resources throughout and support companies and CEOs on their own journeys. Equity & Access is incorporated throughout the three tracks in the following ways:
Utilize Equity is Dynamic field guide to assess principles of equitable behavior and identify your company’s north and near stars for building an equitable company.
Entrepreneurs will be invited to join a community of practice: Peer support within the Elemental network.
Equity & Access milestones and deliverables will be incorporated into project scopes (Project Track & Global Track) and modules (Strategy Track).
For our Project & Global Tracks, we will also share expectations and guidance for Community Partnerships prior to deploying technologies in a new place. We ask companies to establish project relationships based on Principles of Equitable Behavior in order to create meaningful relationships with community stakeholders. This includes creating a clear process and understanding the history and context of each place.
Each project we deploy will be designed to create climate solutions for mutual benefit for all partners involved. Every partner will have a part of the solution. At the end of the day, all technology deployment happens at the community scale. While we are growing globally, we are committed to instilling place-based principles, which include listening, partnering with local organizations, and inviting the community into the process.
We design projects with two principles in mind: Equity In & Equity Out
Build equitable business practices into your company through:
- Hiring:Diversity as a strategic goal as well as a just one
- Professional Development:Inclusion & retention strategies to promote a thriving workforce
- Responsible Supply Chain:Build better products for more people, with the inclusion of diverse suppliers
- Representative Leadership:Inclusive & diverse decision makers drive better outcomes
Leverage your company for social equity and justice outside of your company through:
- Innovation: Equitable & affordable access to green technology & services
- Economic Benefits:Financial & workforce opportunities to local community members
- Unintended Consequences:Exploring & addressing them early on
- Community Partnerships:Ensure innovation meets the needs of the communities
People view what’s happening in communities of color and low-income communities as kind of like a side thing that we should do after we solve the real problem. But communities of color and low-income communities — that is the whole ballgame moving forward.
We’re trying to create a world where everyone can get solar power, regardless of the income they have and regardless of what type of roof they have and I think Elemental will be a really big part in how we get there.
Right now Goodr is a small, but mighty team. My vision for Goodr is huge. Hunger doesn’t just exist in Atlanta. It’s in every city, every community. It doesn’t discriminate. So we need to know how to do what we do, for the masses.
Equity & Access Tools: Square Partnerships
Every partner in a project has a part of the solution but no one has all the answers. Traditional project design and development often omits, sidelines, or delays input from key stakeholders, community-based organizations and nonprofits. One of the Equity & Access tools our team developed is a new model for project development that seeks to achieve mutual benefit among all partners. It helps startups design strong relationships with the communities they seek to work with and thus stronger projects. We call this model Square Partnerships.
Why are community-based organizations and nonprofits an important partner in project design and development? Technology, policy, and markets intersect in different ways in communities around the world. Community-based organizations, leaders, and nonprofits who know and advocate for their communities the best are needed in designing a project that aligns with communities’ priorities and values. This is an important piece of the square because they ensure that our team is invited in and our project is additive and can have a positive impact in addressing the cumulative impacts of pollution and systemic inequities.
How do we define "frontline communities?"
We look to support projects where there are partnerships that achieve mutual benefit with technologies, business models, and partnership models that create new access to opportunity in communities on the frontlines of climate change. We define “frontline communities” as those experience continuing injustice—including people of color, immigrants, people with lower incomes, those in rural areas, and indigenous people— that face a legacy of systemic, largely racialized, inequity that influences their living and working places, the quality of their air and water, and their economic opportunities (Climate Justice Working Group).
Elemental’s work to seek solutions to climate change has been motivated by our experiences in Hawaiʻi where proximity to resources and significant exposure to climate risks impact the island communities. These impacts are particularly acute for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, whose communities are often not seen as priority areas for infrastructure investments. In Resolution 20-206, the City and County of Honolulu has defined frontline communities and committed to equity and justice to the realization of equitable outcomes. The Resilient Oahu program has identified the Social Vulnerability index and ALICE Report findings as helpful tools to identify frontline communities and advance equity.>
One tool we use to identify the communities in California that are on the frontlines of climate change is the CalEnviroScreen 3.0 (CES). CES is a mapping tool, while not perfect, identifies ‘disadvantaged communities’ with both pollution burden and vulnerability to the effects of pollution. Areas identified in yellow, orange, and red by the June 2018 CalEnviroScreen map reflect high levels of pollution across multiple indicators (socioeconomic, environmental & health).>
With every geography, we are interested in investing in companies that could provide jobs, internships, and/or educational opportunities with community partners in frontline communities. Our goal is to increase access to clean technology and employment opportunities in an affordable, equitable, and scalable fashion.