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Diversity & Inclusion in the Renewables sector

Ross Findon M G28ol Y Fg Hi Unsplash

Article posted by Courtney Howard

​2020 will go down in history not just for its global pandemic, but also as a notable tipping point where social unrest pushed equality and diversity firmly onto corporate agendas across the US. Where Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics were once add-ons, they are fast becoming policy, and an absolute requirement for any organization looking for investors. California passed a law last year requiring its publicly held corporations to achieve diversity at board level, and the NASDAQ is working with the SEC to bring in diversity requirements for all its listed companies, so what is the situation in the Renewables space, and how is it changing?

D&I in Renewables

Like many other industrial sectors, the US Renewables sector has a fairly poor history of stats in terms of gender and racial diversity, but like the comparable tech sector, the bigger picture is improving all the time. A number of utility companies in the wider energy sector generally place well in various D&I rankings, partly because all infrastructure projects rely on investors and all investors want to align themselves with companies that promote diversity. There are more female board members than the average across other industries and marginally more CEO’s, but the stats decline lower down the chain, particularly when you get to engineer level. The renewables industry is relatively new and as such is ideally positioned to make a stance and improve upon the figures in the broader energy sector, particularly when you look at some of its better-known champions.

The influence of the tech giants

The tech giants are the largest purchasers of renewable electricity in the US and also happen to lead the way in many ESG and D&I initiatives. Renewable energy businesses are quickly learning to follow their example, which is transforming the industry landscape in a positive way. Each year, the major players in the tech space launch ever more progressive programs that should inspire businesses across all sectors to up their own game. For example, Google has a goal to become 100% renewable every hour of the day by matching renewable energy generation to energy consumed by its data centers. And Microsoft is working with solar suppliers to develop a portfolio of projects in poorly serviced areas, aligning themselves specifically with minority and female-owned businesses. 

Initiatives by Renewable companies

Hopefully inspired by the spirit of social movements this year as much as the tech industry examples, we have seen several programs and initiatives launch recently across the clean energy space. Several leading solar and renewable energy companies have launched ‘Renewables Forward’ to improve workforce diversity and inclusion in the industry by sharing best practice policies and investing in minority communities that typically miss out on the economic and job opportunities that climate change and clean energy are creating. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is also developing a number of programs and tools for its members to help them promote D&I and embrace it as part of their corporate culture. They hope to share best practice and track progress right across the solar sector. And in the Wind Energy sector, the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program hopes to improve upon the sector’s 80/20 male/female split by encouraging gender equality and helping employers in the wind industry incorporate D&I principles into their hiring practices.

With more strategies like these promoted within businesses of all sizes, the Renewables space could make huge strides in diversity and inclusion in 2021.

Follow Courtney on Linkedin for more insights and thoughts around Diversity & Inclusion within Renewables.