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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Equality Action Plan

CISL has published a new Equality Action Plan which seeks to unlock greater participation of people from ethnically diverse backgrounds in CISL’s work, ensure fuller representation of their voices, and ensure the Institute counters racism as an employer, client and partner.

The plan was drawn up following a staff survey where CISL staff were asked to share their perspectives on racism – in particular what they felt the Institute could do to: ensure people are treated equally irrespective of colour; reduce systemic barriers that people from ethnically diverse backgrounds may face in working with us; develop insight into racism and fluidity in representing the issues, and advocate for broader change in society.

CISL’s CEO and Director, Clare Shine, said: “Without diversity and inclusion, we lack the perspectives, knowledge, skills and collaborative culture essential to thrive. CISL works to accelerate leadership and solutions for truly sustainable societies and economies. We cannot deliver better outcomes and influence others to act if we fail to counter racism and structural injustice.”

She continued, “I want CISL to be a leader in defending and embracing equality and opportunity. This is central to our purpose, our values and the long-term impact we pursue for people and planet. For decades, our education programmes have brought the scourge of inequality to the attention of business audiences. However, our own research tells us that we have much more to do to improve our own practices. This Equality Action Plan commits CISL to take action, measure progress and be open about what is working or not.”

The plan will focus on the following priorities:

  • Diversity at work: to ensure our staff reflect the diversity of society, strengthening ourselves in the process.
  • Diversity of our partners: ensure our partners reflect the diversity of society, strengthening ourselves in the process.
  • Access to our services: to ensure our work touches a wide cross-section of society for mutual benefit
  • Content and representation: to ensure our content positively represents people from ethnically diverse backgrounds, while positioning inequalities – including racism – as a core concern in sustainability.
  • Advocacy: We aim to counter racism in our external communications and partnerships, strengthening our profile on a critical sustainability concern.

In 2020 CISL established a new Equality Action Plan Delivery Group which has responsibility for implementing CISL’s Equality Action Plan. The group is responsible for promoting, championing and encouraging all of the actions identified in the plan and monitoring activity against them on a regular basis. The next stage of the Equality Action Plan Delivery Group will focus on expanding the scope of the Plan to include a broader perspective on equality, diversity and inclusion – allowing CISL to continue to take action against racism, but also address issues of income, gender, faith and sexuality.

“Until recently the sustainability movement could hardly be described as geographically or ethnically diverse, hampering its ability to understand social justice as integral, in fact central, to its mission to improve planet Earth. We are now discovering how significant this gap is, and how important it is to place people at the heart of the movement – not only because this is morally correct, but that it also improves our ability to safeguard the environment.” Jake Reynolds, Executive Director, Sustainable Economy, CISL

“Diversity & inclusion fuels innovation and strengthens resilience. It not only mitigates against the risk of system collapse, but is also the essence for evolutionary adaptation. For example, in biologically diverse forests, this complexity allows organisms to adapt to continually changing environmental conditions and to maintain ecosystem functions. Similarly, when organisations can deploy a range of perspectives and ideas, it allows for constant variation and experimentation with products and strategies —essential in maintaining fitness and staying future-proof in a constantly changing environment.” Jie Zhou, Programme Manager for CISL’s Accelerator Programme

“I have enjoyed being part of the EAP delivery group which has considered diversity and inclusion with great honesty and openness, creating an outcome focused plan underpinned by ambitious action. These are great foundations for the start of our work on this important topic and fundamental to creating a more sustainable and equitable society.” Munish Datta, CISL Fellow and Director at UK Green Building Council

“Placing diversity and inclusion at the heart of our work is essential to successfully accelerate transformation towards more sustainable economies and societies. Fostering this change, I look forward to continuing supporting the work of the Equality Action Plan delivery group. Working with our colleagues, partners and contributors from across the globe, we will jointly scale up action on D&I.” Krisztina Zálnoky, Research Project Manager at CISL’s Centre for Policy and Industrial Transformation

“I’m struck at the opportunities we have to integrate diversity and inclusion in what we do and how we do it. This Equality Action Plan is a positive step towards that, with early gains that are highlighted in this report and to be celebrated. Yet there is lots of work to continue, from continue our learning on the subject, developing a collective understanding of diversity and inclusion in the organisation, as well as more on what we can do to tackle these issues. I look forward to seeing further progress in the next stage of the Plan.” Tahmid Chowdhury, CISL Programme Manager at CISL’s Centre for Policy and Industrial Transformation

If you would like to find out more about CISL’s Equality Action Plan or the work of the Institute’s Equality Action Plan Delivery Group and Equality Forum contact


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

Email | +44 (0) 7845652839