A   B   C   D   E    G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z

What is Environmental Racism?

Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards that communities of color and low-income communities face.  

Essentially, it's a form of systemic racism that manifests in the form of unequal exposure to environmental hazards.  

Examples of environmental hazards that disproportionately affect marginalized communities include toxic waste dumps, oil refineries, and polluting industries.  

In essence, it's a form of discrimination that violates the right of these communities to a healthy environment. 

Despite its prevalence, environmental racism remains one of the most overlooked issues in the workplace. 


The Impact of Environmental Racism 

The roots of environmental racism date back to the Civil Rights Movement. During this time, African American communities began to raise concerns about discriminatory environmental practices such as the placement of toxic waste sites, air pollution, and toxic dumping in their neighborhoods.  

Environmental racism occurs when communities of color are exposed to a higher concentration of pollutants than their white counterparts.  

These pollutants range from hazardous waste, air pollution, and contaminated water, among others. This exposure to pollution has a severe impact on the health and well-being of these communities, leading to higher rates of respiratory diseases, cancer, and developmental issues.  

People of color and low-income families often have fewer resources to remediate the environmental damage and have limited access to healthcare, exacerbating the impact of the exposure to hazardous substances. 

One of the most significant and immediate effects of environmental racism is the negative impact on public health.  

Minority communities are more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards such as lead, air pollution, and contaminated water sources.  

This can lead to an increased risk of cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. Additionally, environmental racism can also lead to economic harm within these communities, as the pollution may devalue property and affect job opportunities. 

There is also an undeniable psychological impact on those living in communities exposed to environmental racism.  

Minority communities are often subjected to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and trauma when they become aware of the dangers present in their communities.  

The accumulated stress can contribute to chronic diseases and mental health issues that ultimately perpetuate the cycle of health inequality. 


Examples of Environmental Racism 

One of the examples of environmental racism is Flint, Michigan, where the majority Black and low-income residents were exposed to lead-contaminated water for years.  

This lead exposure has long-term health implications, including developmental delays and neurological issues.  

Another example is Louisiana's Cancer Alley, where a stretch of predominantly Black communities is exposed to high levels of air pollution due to refineries and chemical plants built along the Mississippi River. This exposure leads to higher rates of cancer, respiratory illnesses, and asthma. 

Environmental racism is not just a social issue, but it also has a considerable impact on businesses.  

Companies that operate in proximity to communities exposed to hazardous substances face mounting lawsuits, regulatory action, and reputational damage. Moreover, environmental racism contributes to systemic inequalities, which harm our economy's overall stability and growth. 


How to Combat Environmental Racism 

Companies can take a series of steps to combat environmental racism and ensure that they operate in an ethical and socially responsible manner. Some steps that organizations can take include: 

Conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment 

Evaluate your organization's operations to identify potential environmental risks and hazards, especially those that may disproportionately affect communities of color. 


Engage with Affected Communities 

Consult with the communities that may be impacted by your organization's activities and seek their perspectives and input before making any decisions that could affect them. 


Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

Ensure that your organization's policies, practices, and culture promote diversity, equity, and inclusion to reduce the likelihood of perpetuating systemic issues like environmental racism. 


Invest in Sustainable Practices 

Implement sustainable practices that reduce your organization's environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable and just future. 


inclusio Helps Organizations Make Better Environmental Decisions 

inclusio is a cloud-based platform that helps companies streamline their D&I initiatives and create policies to combat environmental racism and make informed decisions.  

It allows companies to engage employees and get their feedback when making decisions and providing actionable diagnostics that companies can use to improve overall reporting.