Quarterly Report: Leyline Addressing Racism (Q2 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.
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: Growing Roots
This quarter was about setting our words in stone, fortifying partnerships, and planning for the future. July 1 marks the first anniversary of Leyline Addressing Racism! With that, we also mark one year since the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. It has been a long, long year; pain, sadness, loss, and learning. We are proud of the work that we have accomplished. It is worth stating that the LAR working group is a voluntary employee-led effort – members of LAR volunteer hours every quarter to come together and push the LAR mission forward. We thank all LAR working group members for their initiative and hard work.
This quarter, Leyline celebrated Juneteenth as a company-wide paid holiday for the first time. We also implemented consistent infrastructure for the LAR working group, including establishing a schedule of monthly meeting leaders and delivering regular updates to the entire company during monthly meetings. It is Leyline’s objective to navigate the crossroads between rhetoric and reality. We must stay focused and continue stepping forward, while acting in accordance with our values. We are grateful and proud of all the Leyline team members that remain committed to this cause. We have continued to work and bridge new relationships, and we look forward to the next quarter. As our first year has passed, we continue to grow our roots deeper and stronger, more fortified with each step.
We continue to fortify and grow our EDUCATION commitment. At the beginning of this quarter, as part of LAR’s initiative to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, members of the Leyline team decided to participate at the mock interview program with at Meredith College, meeting with students and offering feedback and guidance on their interview skills. Our REEAL (Renewable Energy Externship at Leyline) intern, Vivica Moore, continued her amazing work, rotating through another three teams at Leyline and completing the externship portion of her REEAL internship. She has since moved into the internship portion for the summer, living in Durham and working with three internal teams at Leyline on various projects.
As we shift to the summer, we are also ramping up future connections and investments in education. This quarter, we had further development in the mentorship program Leyline is working to support. The intention of this program is to bring more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) populations into the world of renewables and sustainability by increasing accessibility, touch points, and entry points into the industry. After planning and coordination, a small group from LAR held a focus group with North Carolina Central University students to become more informed about the mentorship program. We learned about how to set expectations and the efforts required to best support students in the future program. In completing work with the focus group, we were able to finalize the mentorship program structure and move on to writing the proposal to develop the mentorship program.
Leyline has grown substantial roots on EMPLOYMENT this quarter, firming up our policies and their implementation. Early in the quarter, we considered longevity and began to debrief on the successes and failures related to Q1 implementation of our new hiring policy focused on prioritizing just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive (JEDI) hiring practices. We also created a structured onboarding process, including creation and use of materials for educating new employees on LAR’s mission and purpose and an invitation to join the effort (which extends to our current employees, as well). In addition, we began building out a robust HR strategy, with JEDI foundations, as we brought on a part-time HR consultant to help lead our onboarding process and monitor our hiring policy.
Another area we prioritized this quarter in the realm of employment was a LAR subgroup focused on identifying an unconscious bias and diversity training for all employees. As Leyline grows in size and diversity, we will continue to prioritize equitable and inclusive practices across our organization, including giving voice to the diversity of perspectives offered by our employees. In researching potential trainings, the LAR subgroup narrowed the list down and held informational sessions with two different BIPOC-owned consulting firms. During this process, we started internal conversations about broadening the consultant scope to help create a holistic strategic JEDI plan for Leyline that involves all levels of employees, including executive leadership.
We look forward to finalizing a selection for the training and sharing more detail on the process and strategic plan in our following reports. Finally, LAR is working with local Durham bookstore, Rofhiwa Book Café, to build an in-office or online LAR resource library. We are excited to see what this partnership has to offer and the many good reads to come!
FINANCE AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS
Lastly, LAR continued forward in our FINANCE AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS focus area, first by reaching out to potential partner organizations in Leyline’s hometown of Durham. Our finance focus for the quarter revolved around completion of our project with a student team from the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. The student team from the initiative’s flagship class, “Laboratory for Sustainable Business,” completed work with a group of Leyline employees to determine a path for incorporating JEDI metrics into Leyline’s origination process. This quarter, our engaged and dedicated student team delivered a tool that will allow us to quantify and measure the JEDI impact of the developers that we work with and the projects that we finance. Leyline employees worked weekly with the students to refine the scope of the project and will be integrating the tool into Leyline’s origination process in quarters to come. We are so grateful to our student team for their work and insights.
Our partnership with one of the city’s leading affordable housing and community developers, Durham Community Land Trustees (DCLT), continues this quarter as we seek out potential grant and rebate opportunities for residents. We are excited to continue to bring our wealth of experience and capital resources to the table to help DCLT realize its goals. We also continue partnerships with Black Oak Collective, Renewables Forward, and North Carolina Central University. If you are an interested in a future partnership, please reach out to any Leyline employee – we want to know how we can help.
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!