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Building a just and thriving world is going to take all of us

A letter from CBEY's Executive Director, Stuart DeCew

Dear community and friends,

Over 40 years ago, Yale founded an innovative joint degree program - the first of its kind anywhere in the United States - to connect the Yale School of the Environment and the Yale School of Management. Here, people looked beyond their established approaches to explore how the management of ecosystems, businesses and communities are interconnected. In doing so, they set the foundation and soul of a collaborative and compassionate culture for our center. 

Over the past 18 years, the Yale Center for Business and the Environment’s (CBEY) work has grown in both reach and impact to build on this legacy. Still, the urgency of the climate crisis, rising inequality, and biodiversity loss has continued to build. 

We know our world needs bold and immediate action. The CBEY team is committed to fostering learning and collaboration for individuals committed to the future of our shared planet, and we know there is more to do to reach the many people who have been systemically left out.

It was Maya Angelou who said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.

This is a belief we’ve always held at CBEY. 

We believe in taking action now over crafting perfect solutions. We believe failure is an opportunity for growth. We believe in meeting people where they are. 

Over the years, we have learned from and supported remarkable people in our community who have been personally and professionally impacted by discrimination and bias. The Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020 came on the heels of a series of moments and events happening in our community that found our team considering our role in supporting equity and repairing systemic harms. 

We asked ourselves more pointed questions. “What future do we want to help build?” “Where are we investing our time and resources? Do those investments reflect our beliefs and values?”

"This work is going to take all of us. Still, the onus for removing barriers and creating real opportunity needs to be a daily practice of individuals and organizations like ours."

-Stuart DeCew

We've always thought about the environment and the unique role of businesses in protecting our shared world. What we have not always fully recognized was the human impact and the intertwined nature of our work across social issues. 

For the past three years, the team at CBEY has been working, experimenting, and learning to better understand our role and commitment towards advancing justice. We have been speaking with students and the individuals we serve to better support equity in our work and beyond. 

Some of what we’ve learned is this: 

  • Justice and equity are intrinsic across all sectors of work and life. If we want to create innovative and sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our human and natural systems, it must be intersectional across communities, identities, and sectors.
  • It’s about changing hearts and minds and it’s about changing systems. This means committing time and resources to removing structural barriers and elevating talented people most impacted by inequities.
  • This is only the beginning. A commitment to equity and justice requires consistent learning, improvement and investment. We may be consistently imperfect as long as we are consistently better.

The climate crisis is not impacting us all equally. 

PSiCE in front of the globe

Yet Black and Brown, Indigenous, low-income, and other individuals of incredible talent with diverse backgrounds, identities, and abilities have been structurally and systematically kept out of building the solutions at the heart of CBEY’s work.

To combat this reality, we’ve been investing in new programs, resources, and scholarships to advance our deepened commitment to justice. 

  • We launched the Planetary Solutions in Clean Energy summer internship and fellowship program to create pathways to careers in clean energy for first-generation and BIPOC students. 
  • We expanded our Financing and Deploying Clean Energy Certificate Program (FDCE) to support the ongoing learning of global working professionals, who wish to accelerate an equitable and just transition to a clean economy. Through our online programs, we seek to build a powerful network that is reflective of our diverse world. 
  • We welcomed Resident Fellow Tagan Engel to lead a monthly discussion group on Power & Race in Community, Business, and the Environment. Through the group, she teaches practices for redistributing power and resources and also connects social and financial resources with New Haven organizers and community leaders. 
  • We’re collaborating with the Yale Center for Environmental Justice to build programs and support the growth of the recently established center which is committed to strengthening institutional capacity to work alongside frontline communities to lead change.
  • And we have some new programs in the works we’re excited to be sharing with you soon!

How we describe our work has also been changing to acknowledge these new developments and better understanding of our impact and actions. We recently updated our mission to reflect the goals, values, and vision of CBEY as we continue to undertake this intentional evolution. 

This work is going to take all of us. Still, the onus for removing barriers and creating real opportunity needs to be a daily practice of individuals and organizations like ours.

As we push forward, the systems that marginalize and harm women and non-binary individuals, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ folks and others will push back. 

Right now, people we deeply care for are facing an ascendant wave of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans laws and sentiments sweeping across parts of the United States. There is a moral imperative to build an economic and social system in which they have the freedom to work, love and live without any fear.

Compassionate and innovative environmental leaders from all backgrounds and intersecting identities are at the heart of our community and at the forefront of solutions to the climate crisis. Their unburdened talent, skills, and expertise will create a healthier planet. 

I share this with you to create some transparency and as an offer of accountability to our broader CBEY community. We invite you to join in growing our collective strength to advance the transition to a just and thriving world, for all the lives on it. 

Stuart  DeCew

We believe in the power of businesses to advance environmental justice as social justice, gender justice, racial justice and more. As we redouble our efforts, it is our hope that the industries and organizations at the intersection of our work can begin to reflect our increasingly diverse and ever-changing world. 

We will all be better for it.  

-Stuart DeCew (MEM/MBA '11), Executive Director of the Yale Center for Business and the Environment