Quarterly Report: Leyline Addressing Racism (Q1 2021)
In the crucible summer of 2020, Leyline’s employees made a collective commitment to anti-racism and social equity. We pledged to hold ourselves and our company accountable for making real change, particularly in the renewable energy industry where Black and Brown people are dramatically underrepresented. Leyline issued its Statement on Equity on July 1, 2020, and formed the Leyline Addressing Racism Working Group (“LAR”) to organize our shared work.
Part of our public pledge is to report each quarter on the progress we have made toward our goals as well as our key metrics on environmental impact, equitable corporate governance, and social change.
Riding the momentum of our inaugural months in 2020, LAR and the entire Leyline team dug in, expanding both our ambitions and our reach. We are a learn-as-you-go group that strives to listen attentively to our partners and to take those learnings back and improve our action plan in real time. This post illuminates the thought and action behind the data shown in that Equity and Environment Report. Our commitment to continuous improvement can be seen in our three main overlapping focus areas this past quarter: education, employment, and finance and community partnerships. As a reminder, we define these focus areas as:
- Education: Introducing renewable energy at several critical points along the education pathway
- Employment: Refining Leyline’s hiring and employment processes to invite, include, and retain more diverse candidates
- Finance and Community Partnerships: Using Leyline’s capital and personal resources to increase access to solar energy for lower-income communities, particularly lower-income communities of color
Our Theme This Quarter: Reaching Out
This quarter was all about reaching out to our network and community to listen to and amplify the voices that most need to be heard. We welcomed our first Renewable Energy Ex/Internship at Leyline, celebrated Black History Month, and made invaluable connections with our Durham community.
Our Leyline team and the world have been through a lot this quarter. The attack on the U.S. Capitol, anti-Asian hate crimes, and continued police brutality have fortified our commitment to addressing racism. While our hearts are heavy, we are committed to anti-racism and social equity via internal governance, continued action and practice, and financial and community partnerships. It is Leyline’s objective to navigate the crossroads between rhetoric and reality. We must stay focused and keep stepping forward, while acting in accordance with our values. As before, we have joined other companies that are focused on anti-racism and equity efforts within the renewable energy industry, and we call on those who do not share that focus to get involved as well.
Within Leyline, this has been an exciting quarter. We hosted a memorable and informative Black History Month spotlight series in which we brought in three guest speakers to learn about Durham’s “Black Wall Street,” the Hayti community of Durham, and the story of lawyer and human rights activist, Pauli Murray. As LAR and Leyline mature in their own identities, the team continues to consider how LAR can best impact and serve our community within Durham and across the state. To that end, Leyline has committed to setting an annual social impact goal at the company level, as an addition to our LAR work.
Our EDUCATION commitment has had room to grow and bloom this quarter. Last quarter, we stepped up, this quarter we reached out. Our REEAL internship was designed last year to create lasting impact in Leyline’s employment practices. The internship structure was designed to start with recruiting, hiring, and onboarding our REEAL intern before he/she begins the externship. The externship takes place during the school year, with our REEAL intern working part time during the spring semester; the externship focuses on rotations through each Leyline team, with the goal of comprehensive learning of all Leyline has to offer. Come summer, the internship begins, with our REEAL intern working full time on two or three teams of his/her choosing. We are in the midst of completing our first REEAL internship and will rely heavily on feedback from Leyline teams and most importantly, our REEAL intern.
This quarter, we hired Vivica Moore to be our first REEAL intern. Vivica joined us during her sophomore spring semester at North Carolina A&T, where she is studying management information systems in the College of Business and Economics. In the first quarter, Vivica was hired and completed her externship rotation through four out of seven teams; thus far, Vivica’s incredible engagement and curiosity has brought this new internship to life. An interview detailing her first few months here will be coming soon.
As part of Leyline’s educational engagement initiatives, members of the Leyline team took part in Mock Interview Week at Meredith College, participated in career fairs at NC A&T and Howard University, and offered perspectives on renewable energy and internal processing at the Elizabeth City State University Career Conversations.
Continuing with the quarter’s theme of reaching out, a group of our Leyline team is doing just that in developing a mentorship program in conjunction with North Carolina Central University The goal would be to bring more BIPOC populations into the world of renewables and sustainability by increasing accessibility, touch points, and footholds into the industry as a whole. More details to come in future reports!
Leyline reached out and shaped up on EMPLOYMENT this quarter. Our company is growing, and our work toward ensuring equitable and just hiring practices continues to develop. Leyline is committed inside and out to this cause. As of this quarter, we completed a full draft of our hiring policy with a prioritization of just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive (JEDI) practices. We trained C-Suite and director levels on this new policy and incorporated it into four new job postings.
Additionally, we completed our Diversity and Inclusion Policy and updated our Ethics Policy. We realize a foundation informed by our internal policies is critical to Leyline’s ability to grow. At Leyline, these policies actively inform the context of our culture. We do this knowing that over time, these policies will continue to change and grow as we discuss limitations and improvements. With each step and each edit, we strive to improve.
Leyline also become a Seedling Partner/Sponsor” of Black Oak Collective, a new organization whose mission is “to increase Black representation within businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations not as an end, but as one tool toward that goal.” This membership will allow us to post open positions to its job board and access its amazing community.
We continue to be involved with Renewables Forward working groups, speaking with other organizations in the field on best JEDI practices. Working together with other organizations and initiatives, we already see fundamental shifts in how renewables companies create and fill positions and are excited to refine our practices in the coming year.
Lastly, LAR continued forward in our FINANCE AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS focus area, first by reaching out to potential partner organizations in our hometown of Durham. Last quarter, we initiated conversations with one of the city’s leading affordable housing and community developers, Durham Community Land Trustees (DCLT), to explore how rooftop solar systems installed on its rented and owned units could reduce energy costs for its residents. This quarter, we dove in and completed a technical assessment for rooftop solar on all DCLT properties. From our modeling, we started the financial modeling process and determined how expansive and replicable this project could be. We volunteered to serve on the planning task force for DCLT’s next major project, a coordinated affordable housing community just down the street from Leyline’s offices that has committed to ambitious green building targets. We are excited to bring our wealth of experience and capital resources to the table to help DCLT realize those goals.
This quarter also kicked off our project with a student team from MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. A team of students from the initiative’s flagship class, “Laboratory for Sustainable Business,” began work with a group of Leyline employees to determine a path for incorporating JEDI metrics into Leyline’s origination process. Leyline employees spent time refining the scope of the project, presenting to the class, and then getting acquainted with the student team. This group of Leyliners will meet with the team weekly for updates, and we are excited to see the final product in the next quarter!
Riding alongside our progress, one of LAR’s greatest challenges in our work is how great the need to act is. It is tempting to raise our hand for every opportunity to be of service. Calling on our community to meet those needs as much as possible, LAR is also cognizant of the need to balance the demands of service with our core work: to provide critical capital to renewable energy development. Our superpower is a deep focus on the areas where we can most impact change – this primary mission is what makes our other work possible. We continue to strive to strike that balance and remain both a powerful force in the renewable energy revolution and a powerful partner in the fight against racism. Having broadened and assured our foundation at the end of 2020, we continue to make our commitment and do what we can to create mindful, positive change to combat racism in our professional field and local communities. Thank you for reading and looking forward to updating you again next quarter!