Audubon’s EDIB Conservation Principles describe how EDIB will weave throughout our conservation programmatic work. The principles are grounded in our organizational values and will guide development and implementation of projects and programs to meet our conservation milestones.
The principles allow Audubon to establish a clear and high bar for our decisions and actions. They enable consistency across our programs from policy and on the ground conservation to our Conservation Action Centers to community building and Chapter engagement. Above all, the principles ensure we do right by the human communities most impacted by the urgent conservation and climate issues we need to address.
Accountability in our impact
Some communities—particularly Indigenous and communities of color—continue to be disproportionately harmed by or excluded from the benefits of policies, practices, and actions of governments, non-governmental organizations, and the environmental sector. We commit to working proactively with impacted communities to prevent or mitigate disproportionate harm resulting from policies, practices, or programs associated with Audubon. We also commit to intentionally and proactively seeking to prioritize historically marginalized and underrepresented groups in the positive impacts of our work.
The challenges facing birds and humans transcend the boundaries of any one community, political party, or country. As the issues we seek to address are hemispheric in nature and impact, we commit to seeking solutions that are both inclusive of the entire Western hemisphere and designed with, led by, and implemented in local communities.
True collaboration requires cultural sensitivity, competence, and a long-term commitment to building relationships founded on trust. Audubon will respectfully elevate and champion the concerns, needs, leadership, and expertise of those organizations and individuals with whom we aim to ally ourselves. We commit to creating space and time to share their stories and perspectives, raise questions, express concerns, and engage in authentic dialogue. We commit to proactively seeking others’ input and feedback on processes and to adapting our approaches as needed.
Accountability in our relationships
Organizational accountability applies not only to our Board, staff, and supporters, but also to the people and communities impacted by our work. We commit to taking concrete actions to be transparent about our programs and engagement with communities and partners. We commit to doing what we say we will do and following through on our commitments to our community partners and collaborators. We also commit to having the humility and self-awareness to change course when there is an opportunity to do better by people and by birds.
Reflection and Learning
We consistently seek to demonstrate alignment with our organizational values through our words, actions, and treatment of others. We recognize that our understanding of what it means to demonstrate our values will evolve over time, as we receive and learn from feedback. We commit to approaching these experiences with an orientation that balances self-awareness, a generosity of spirit, authentic learning, and a commitment to continuous improvement.
Shared purpose and collaboration
The challenges facing birds and the planet cannot be overcome by Audubon alone. We believe that in a broad and diverse movement, Audubon can play a variety of useful roles, including as a partner to other people, communities, organizations, and coalitions with whom we have a shared purpose and where we are invited to collaborate. We could also be a “bridge builder” between sectors to support and/or facilitate stronger collaboration. Or our highest and best role may be to minimize our leadership role and focus on collaboration and allyship with other organizations, particularly those from impacted communities, intentionally creating space for other voices to lead.
We acknowledge that people are experts in their own lives and lived experiences. We affirm and respect the rights of all people to speak for themselves. We commit to pro- actively elevating the voices of impacted people and communities in our approach, particularly those who are or have historically been excluded from decision-making processes or whose voices have been underrepresented or marginalized.
The drivers of decline in bird populations are the same as those impacting the air, water, and land we all share. While our identity is centered on birds, we recognize that any actions we take to advance the well-being of birds has an inevitable, significant impact on human beings and our communities. Consequently, we seek to create conditions where both birds and human communities can thrive.
Communities of color, Indigenous, and other impacted communities often have environmental needs that must be met on a more urgent timeframe. In our shared work with local communities, we seek to ensure that our programs center the needs of our community partners and collaborators and where appropriate, reflect the need for timely action.
There is great value in the lived experience and traditional knowledge of local communities, peoples of color, and Indigenous peoples. This knowledge informs our understanding of the problems we seek to address, the outcomes we seek to achieve, and the context in which we operate. We affirm that these forms of knowledge are as important as “Western” knowledge and research in guiding how we design, plan, and conduct our work. Accordingly, we commit to an integrated approach, in which we seek to integrate the diverse scientific traditions, systems, and methods of both Indigenous and Western knowledge to shape our decisions and actions. We also commit to owning our own learning processes and not relying exclusively on the most impacted and/or marginalized voices to educate our teams about traditional approaches.
Engage across difference
We understand that in seeking to address complex issues impacting human communities and birds, it is inevitable that there will be differences of opinion, contrasting points of view, and disagreements about how to proceed. We also recognize that impacted human communities are not a monolith and that there will likely not be a single set of perspectives that represents all impacted people. Understanding that conflicts and disagreements will inevitably occur, we commit to consistently striving to create the conditions for authentic discussion, the centering of the needs of impacted human communities, and the exploration of best possible solutions.
Science, research, and decades of conservation experience have demonstrated that what is best for birds nearly always benefits humans. However, in grappling with complex environmental issues, we recognize that there will be a rare subset of situations in which what is best for birds may be at odds with what is best for human communities. In these situations, Audubon will inevitably need to navigate difficult trade-offs and hard choices without obvious solutions. With this complexity in mind, our general approach will be to pursue bird- friendly conservation unless it potentially results in significant harm to human communities, in which case we commit to taking extra steps to minimize or mitigate harm to humans. This includes conducting additional analysis to assess the potential trade-offs and impacts on humans, consulting internally and potentially externally to determine a responsible path forward, and take concrete actions to significantly mitigate harm to humans.
We recognize that issues facing both humans and birds, such as climate change or biodiversity decline, are complex and interconnected. Many of these issues are multi-dimensional and at the scale of whole systems, with one issue often affecting or exacerbating the other. Accordingly, we seek solidarity with those who seek to resolve interconnected issues, even if their main focus is something other than birds. In cases where partnership is mutually invited, we welcome the opportunity to collaborate in ways that complement and support each’s work and that advance a broader narrative.
In the EDIB Principles, we use the term “impacted communities” to describe human communities that are disproportionately and/or most directly affected by the issue, program, or policy under discussion. Within that set of impacted communities, Audubon prioritizes and centers the needs of those that are or have been historically excluded from relevant resources or decision-making processes, or that have been historically underrepresented or marginalized. Accordingly, this term must be understood contextually based on the specifics of the situation. For example, if our focus is the siting of a coal-burning facility that is planned to be very close to a predominantly Black, working-class community, we would likely consider that to be the most impacted community. Or, if we are referring to issue of ocean plastics, Audubon would prioritize lower-income Black or Brown coastal communities within the broader category of impacted coastal communities because more affluent coastal communities have greater access to resources and decision-making processes that could mitigate the harm they experience due to ocean plastics.
We often use the term “elevate” when referring to how we aim to engage with marginalized voices in our conservation work. Here, the use of the term “elevate” is meant to denote that we intend to do more than listen to the voices of those from impacted, marginalized communities. We commit to giving the direct input of impacted, marginalized communities greater weight in terms of informing and shaping our work. For example, if in our community engagement work, Audubon prefers a certain timeline for implementing an urban greening initiative that is
co-designed with the local community, we would prioritize a different timeline if the community strongly preferred it. In this example, we elevate the community’s needs and preferences above our own.
In our work with community leaders – particularly from tribal nations and Indigenous communities – Audubon has received consistent feedback that using the common terms “partner” or “stakeholder” to describe Audubon has been problematic in the past because using these terms has sometimes signaled to community leaders that Audubon and other conservation groups see themselves as co-equals to the local or Indigenous community, when in fact the local or Indigenous community is and must be in the primary leadership position. Because Audubon seeks to take lead of local communities in determining how we describe our roles, we often use the terms “collaborator,” “supporter,” or “ally” to describe Audubon’s role.
Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Audubon
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