Draft Environmental Justice Framework

Inviting Feedback on our Draft Environmental Justice Framework


Solidarity Message

A month ago, our office shared the above message of solidarity on our social media channels. We included resources for learning and action, but did not yet include our own proposal for actions going forward. Our office has spent the past month listening, reflecting and having active discussions with students, staff, faculty and alumni.

We in the Office of Sustainability, as a primarily white staff in a predominately white field, recognize the inherent privilege assigned to us by a broken system. While we cannot truly know the pain that the Black community has and is experiencing, know that we stand in solidarity with the Black community and affirm that Black Lives Matter. Recent tragic events, in a long history of injustice, have pushed us to assess what we need to do going forward to be a better organization, and one that is actively anti-racist.

Our office works at the intersection of the environment and social justice, advocating for regenerative systems and practices on behalf of the planet and its people. We recognize that Sustainability is not separate from racial justice. The two are, in fact, intertwined as many BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities are affected by Environmental Racism. As environmental and social wellness stewards, we must work harder to advance equity and justice for marginalized communities in the sustainability movement and our global society. We must practice Intersectional Environmentalism, by advocating not only for our planet, but also for the people who inhabit it.  There can be no racial justice without Environmental Justice. [See definitions in sidebar]

We know that actions speak louder than words and that our actions must contribute to addressing systemic causes of inequality, inequity and racism.  We recognize the need to address these interconnected issues and hope you will join us in furthering a sustainable, just, equitable, diverse and inclusive culture at Princeton University.

It is critical that all voices are represented and all members of the campus community feel welcomed, valued, and empowered to share their unique perspective. We welcome feedback from the Princeton campus community on these proposed initial action items.

Princeton University Office of Sustainability’s Anti-Racism Initiatives: DRAFT Environmental Justice Framework

Our framework, once developed, will include both short term and long term action items for implementation beginning Fall 2020, and will be posted on our website. This living document will identify the actionable steps that our office plans to take and will be annually updated as part of our broader sustainability progress reporting.

Proposed preliminary action items include:

2019 Princeton University Sustainability Action Plan:
  • Review Princeton’s Sustainability Action Plan for opportunities to more effectively link our institutional sustainability goals, strategies and metrics with anti-racism, equality and justice. 
Ethos and Culture:
  • Our office will attend DEI campus events, programming and trainings, following any forthcoming University guidelines.
  • Our office will engage in environmental and racial justice planning discussions in higher education networks, and invite dialogue with practitioners in the environmental justice field.
  • Our office will advocate for and support anti-racist initiatives within the Facilities Organization. 
  • Our office will support reviving the TigerChallenge RESPECT initiative that celebrates Facilities staff and advocate for including service and support staff in other departments.
  • Our office will embrace courageous, compassionate, and respectful conversations about potentially difficult or uncomfortable topics during staff meetings and other programming meetings. A safe space for courage is not always a comfortable space.
Process and Operations: 
  • Expand the reach of our recruitment efforts for student positions through campus partnerships.
  • Expand outreach to internal and external partners to diversify our applicant pool for any open staff positions.
  • Work in partnership with Human Resources to write all Office of Sustainability job descriptions without biased language, pilot the inclusion of  environmental justice language in all Office student and staff job descriptions as a model for all University postings, and prioritize a commitment to inclusivity throughout the entire hiring process. 
  • Recruit a student or team of students to facilitate student environmental justice programming/initiatives.
  • Evaluate the establishment of an Environmental Justice post-grad Fellow position.
Programs and Projects:
  • Update EcoReps training to include environmental justice education and incorporate into events and programming.
  • Evaluate using High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund to support environmental justice projects, programs, and student research. 
  • Incorporate environmental and social criteria (e.g. supplier diversity criteria) when making office purchases or promoting guidelines for purchasing (as part of Scope 3 emissions evaluation and tracking). Make more explicit the connection between purchasing behaviors and impacts that further racial inequities in underserved communities.
  • Expand recruitment for Staff Ambassador program and reformat the trainings to make them more accessible to staff at all levels of the university. 
  • Expand alumni outreach and mentoring opportunities to make environmental careers more accessible to all Princeton students.
  • Update our office’s Mission Statement to align with our commitment to racial and environmental justice and display the statement in both our office and the new student space in Frist Campus Center.
  • Use our communications platforms to amplify BIPOC voices and stories of those impacted by environmental degradation and climate change and make clearer connections to the roots of disparity and injustice.
    • Platforms include: social media, website, our Sustainability Leaders profiles, videos, newsletter articles, and more
  • Include a Land Acknowledgement statement at all office-sponsored campus meetings and events, on our website, our email signatures and other communications. 

We welcome feedback from the Princeton campus community on our path forward. This is going to take time, but we are committed to reveal and address the systemic and historical injustices that exist on our campus, in the higher-ed sustainability community and environmental movement as a whole, to promote real healing and structural change.