For many years now, the National Audubon Society and its leaders have been outspoken about making our organization more welcoming and inclusive. It’s no secret that Audubon and other large environmental organizations have been dominated at the staff and volunteer levels by white people and often, at leadership levels, by men. That has to change, because our movement needs the full breadth of talent, energy, and perspective represented in the full diversity of America – so we have to grow and expand. You can see our commitment reflected in the makeup of Audubon’s board, executive team and its state and strategy leaders. One of our chapter leaders put it this way: “Audubon for Everyone,” and we’ve made that goal the theme for many of our events and publications because it’s just so well said and true.
Last week, a news organization reported on concerns that have been raised by some current and former staff about Audubon’s workplace culture. We are sorry for the pain and embarrassment many of our staff, volunteers and partners have felt in this moment. I speak for a board of 35 leaders from across America to say our priorities are action and accountability.
In addition to supporting Audubon’s leaders as they take the needed steps to realize our shared ambitions, the board will hire a firm to conduct an independent review of culture, practices and policies. That will complement a series of listening sessions headed up by the board’s new ED&I task force to hear concerns, questions and feedback from staff.
The National Audubon Society’s Board of Directors is deeply invested in ensuring that diversity, equity, and inclusion is at the core of Audubon’s conservation and community engagement work, and its workplace culture for hundreds of employees across America. Audubon and its leaders are making equity for all people a core part of our work. To that end, the Board endorses management’s adoption of a number of key steps in partnership with staff, including the creation of an independent ombuds role and the formation of a staff council. We have come a long way on this journey, but we still have a long way to go.
The momentum for racial equity in the United States is on a new and exciting trajectory. And there’s rightful emphasis on inclusion and leadership from people with disabilities, people of all faiths and political stripes, LGBTQIA+ people, new Americans, and youth. In order for Audubon to meet this moment, our intentions will have to manifest fully in our leadership, staff, and conservation agenda.
As Board Chair, I have the privilege of hearing from a variety of members of Audubon’s vast community—from our talented employees, our 600 state and center volunteer board members, chapters, donors, and bird-lovers around the country. I am proud that the values of racial equity, inclusion and belonging for all, and justice are deeply important to our entire community. It’s clear that we all believe that the outdoors should be safe and welcoming to all, and that conservation should create a better world for everyone, not just a privileged few. We must—and we will—continue translating those values into every aspect of our work, and we invite your partnership in this important journey as we keep moving forward.
This post was expanded on 11/22/2020 to reflect our commitments to inclusion and belonging even more broadly.