Quarterly Report: Leyline Addressing Racism (Q3 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 (LAR) working group 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/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: Solid Foundations
Our focus this quarter has been on creating a solid foundation for Leyline and the longevity of our initiatives. As we keep moving forward on our path, we continue to fortify our COMMITMENT,putting in the effort, learning, and listening. We formalized and set a budget for LAR for the remainder of 2021 and began working toward establishing an annual budget for the working group in 2022. Committing resources upfront to the group will inform our progress and initiatives for the coming year. As part of this effort, we hired Aya Consulting to drive internal development of a company-wide strategic justice, equity, diversity, inclusion (JEDI) plan and learning series. Development of the strategic JEDI plan is set to begin in Q4, as are the first set of the JEDI learning and training series. While Aya Consulting is collaborating on the strategic plan, we also made sure to turn inward to focus on our employees and LAR’s mission. Members of the LAR working group began reflections on the infrastructure and mission of the working group, identifying opportunities for improvement and revamping to refresh employee motivation and company commitment; more to come on the results of those reflections and conversations in our Q4 report!
The third quarter saw the completion of old projects and the start of some new ones, as we continue to build on our commitment to EDUCATION. The LAR team had fulfilling and fun interactions with students interested in the renewable field, experiencing firsthand how much we can learn from those who ask questions and seek answers. The inaugural year of our REEAL (Renewable Energy Externship at Leyline) internship came to an end in early August, as we said goodbye to Vivica Moore, after she wrapped up the summer internship portion of our annual externship/internship program. We incorporated feedback from Vivica into the REEAL internship process and are now actively recruiting candidates for the 2022 REEAL position. We wish Vivica well in her junior year!
With a new school year starting, we ramped up our involvement in career fairs and outreach with HBCUs and local colleges and universities, including our participation in virtual events at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and Howard University toward the end of the quarter. Additionally, we started brainstorming on partnerships with local high schools and reached out to two schools so far to introduce students to renewable energy as a potential career pathway.
Finally, we continued to refine our vision for the mentorship program, now a fellowship program, that we are developing in conjunction with NCCU. The program is focused on creating opportunities for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) populations to break into the renewable and sustainability industries. This quarter, we drafted a final vision on the program structure that included honing in on the number of participants and length of the program; developed rotational components that reflect the foundations of entrepreneurship and sustainability; created a plan for engagement from our network of partners; and developed a budget for program administration and structural expenses. The fellowship committee also drafted a pitch deck for information sharing with internal and external partners. We are excited for further progress on the fellowship program in the fourth quarter!
We kicked off our partnership with local diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant Aya Consulting, scheduling our first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Foundations Workshop in the fourth quarter. The workshop will address unconscious bias, structural power, privilege, and oppression, and contribute to a better understanding of intersectionality, the culture of community and equity, and the defining of shared language and inclusion. This workshop will be followed by quarterly deep dives and learning sessions guided by Aya Consulting. Leyline is excited to start this work and apply it to our internal EMPLOYMENT practices and policies, as well as integrate it into the broader strategic plan that Aya will help develop. With this workshop, we can identify opportunities for change and improvement at a core level and have a base lexicon to communicate these changes.
This quarter, we continued to add new members to Leyline using our JEDI hiring policy. We are refining this process based on feedback and are working with our new human resources representative to codify our policy for years to come.
Finance and COMMUNITY Partnerships
As ever, COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP remains a key tenant for our organization. This quarter, we conducted an internal fundraiser to support the delivery of critical goods, such as clothing, toiletries, and baby food, to a New Jersey Air Force base receiving Afghan refugees. In the end, we raised more than $2,100 from employee donations, totaling more than 400 pounds of donated goods. We also began working on an internal speaking engagement opportunity through Rofhiwa Bookstore; more details to come on this event in the next quarterly report and blog post.
Though we ignite multiple projects each quarter, this quarter stood out. Alongside the speaking engagement opportunity, we continued fortifying our commitment to FINANCE as we began integrating the results from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan student “S-Lab” team project that incorporates JEDI metrics into Leyline’s origination process. We also worked on incorporating JEDI metrics into our technical underwriting process. For every prospective investment, the team assesses the impact that each project may have on the local neighborhood and environment. For instance, the team reports on whether the project is in an economic development opportunity zone, a low-to-moderate income area, and/or located on tribal lands. These data points are aggregated and used to guide the investment decision-making process. The technical underwriting team plans to further integrate JEDI into the process, including the assessment of local air quality, water-stressed regions, and crimes rates, to build a stronger picture of how each project will impact its community.
Finally, we solidified and will continue existing partnerships with Black Oak Collective and Renewables Forward, including participation in monthly meetings for Renewables Forward.
Riding alongside our progress, one of LAR’s greatest challenges in our work is how great the need to act. 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 – 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 we look forward to updating you again next quarter!