American Green Consulting is committed to the pursuit of equality and the end to racism in our own industry and beyond.
Below is our stance on racism and inequality and the next steps we’ve been taking so that we leave our industry—and the world we live in—better than we found it.
A letter from AGC President Chris Gibbons | June 2020
Many of my family and closest friends know that all I ever wanted to be when I was a kid was a cop.
In fact, between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I was accepted into a prestigious student trooper program with the state’s police department. My first job out of high school was with the Department of Corrections, and I even started my college career as a criminal justice major.
While in college, I worked as a park ranger, and after forestry school, my first job was as a shielded agricultural inspector on the Emerald Ash Borer response.
But racism and misogyny were rampant throughout the public safety industry, and what I saw during my time in law enforcement was both terrifying and upsetting. Yes, there were good cops—those who were cognizant of their implicit bias and tried to be fair. But in the face of overt and hateful racist and misogynistic behavior, many looked the other way because if they said something, they would be drummed out of the force.
I couldn’t see myself staying in an industry that went against so many of my core values, so I chose a different path (just one example of white privilege). Looking back, there was so much I could have done to help change things for the better besides not become a cop, but I naively hoped things would eventually change for the better.
Sadly, not much has changed in the last 25 years, as we can see from this data on the likelihood of being killed by the police, broken down by race, age and gender. Affecting actual change in my lifetime never seemed within our collective grasp … until now.
Because of Black Lives Matter and other social impact movements addressing race and gender equality, I am hopeful that we can finally start seeing the changes I longed for, not just in the industry I’d idealized as a boy but also the one I’m in now:
- racial and gender equality
- genuine respect for each other
- allyship for those who fight injustice
Since George Floyd was murdered back in May, I’ve been deeply considering what my next steps should be. There’s so much for me to learn that it’s taken me a while to talk with others and understand how I need to move forward, but I’m determined not to let my learning curve keep me or our company stagnant.
Below is my commitment to see proactive change in the wood products industry and in myself as a small business owner, employer and parent. I truly believe that AGC, and other small businesses like ours, can make a difference so that our industry reflects the world we serve.
Would you consider joining me as we learn and take action together? My ultimate hope is that if each of us starts taking small steps forward, then together we can make a significant difference.
Sharing this publicly is a way to keep myself and AGC accountable to these commitments, and I welcome your thoughts, ideas and partnerships as we all move forward.
Thank you for reading,
As a small business, we can still help our industry take a hard look at itself.
Everyone deserves a sustainable future, but as an industry (of which I’m a part), there’s a history we’ve conveniently forgotten, and inequalities we continue to ignore.
Here is a part of that hard look:
The goal of FSC certification is to ensure that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.
- FSC is the only forest certification system that requires consultation with First people groups with the intention of protecting their rights, on both public and private lands.
- With respect to the rights of communities and workers, the FSC standard not only requires forest managers to consult with these local groups, but to provide fair compensation; protect their health, safety and livelihoods; and allow them to organize under international labor conventions. (Borrowed from FSC Canada)
But environmental racism persists. So in the face of continued environmental racism, how can FSC, and we as a supporter of FSC, do our part to reduce that racism?
We don’t have a lot of answers yet, but we’re here to learn. If you’d like to learn with us, sign up for the How to Be an Anti-Racist Organization monthly series and the The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias book launch with FranklinCovey.
Even though our company is small with limited reach, I still believe we can have an important impact.
As an employer, I can empower my team members to exercise their right to vote.
I want each of my team members to understand that their voices matter. Fixing racial inequities requires systemic reform across the board, and policy reform is just one of the first ways we can begin to make these needed changes. That can only happen through voting.
Giving my team the incentive to exercise their right to vote creates a company culture that supports individual activism. Individual activism can lead to group activism, and activism of any sort can begin to affect the change we wish to see in our world.
It may not seem, on the surface, that voting is directly connected to fighting systemic racism in the wood industry. However, my hope is that this growth in activism will impact not only their own communities, but also the industry to which they have devoted their professional careers. It’s important to me that each of them feels empowered to affect change by voting in their local, state and national elections.
That’s why, I’ve pledged that our company will make the time to vote. While it may seem like a small step, making sure each teammate knows their paycheck covers their time to vote is a solid, financial commitment AGC can make to them—and by extension, to the values they wish to uphold.
While it’s true that very few elections have been decided by one vote, I’d like to share two quotes that have impacted my decisions each and every day, plus one statistic regarding voting.
- “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead
- “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” —Mother Teresa
- 40.3% of eligible American voters did not vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Changing society for the better requires having people in positions of power who are interested in affecting change. At AGC, no one has to choose between earning a paycheck and voting, and ripples can continue to be created.
As a parent, I can help teach the next generation about the importance of anti-racism and equality.
I play a big role in how my son understands the world. He’s just turned one year old, and the responsibility of helping him understand racism and inequality in this world is daunting.
However, it’s a role my wife and I gladly accept, and we know we’ll need plenty of help. We want him to not just experience a world full of natural beauty, but also a humanity where every life matters.
My son is one of our future’s voices after all, with lots of ripples left to make.
Where we go from here
Virtual Symposium on Racism & Inequality in the Wood Products Industry
Our first step (a repeating one) is to seek understanding by learning from those who live in the oppression, and our second step (also repeating) will be to share what we learn with those in our industry so we can start to outline plans for change.
To get that learning started, AGC is reaching out to clients (including BIPOC business owners) and other industry professionals to take part in a virtual symposium that will take place in early 2021.
What it is:
- This will be a first-of-its-kind symposium in our industry (that we know of),
- The high-level goal is to honestly and openly discuss how forestry operations can assist in addressing systemic racism in our industry.
What happens after:
- We’ll formally share our findings and recommendations from this symposium with FSC and other industry influencers.
- We’ll outline specific changes that we, as a group, expect to see from FSC and lay out action steps at their level and ours.
- We’ll set up expectations for regularly following up with these organizations and each other, and organize additional symposiums and discussions as things move forward.
- We’ll publicly record the above, most likely here on our website.
If you’d like to be a part of this ongoing discussion, email me and I’ll keep you updated on the symposium and next steps that come from it.
Working With Clients Who Share These Same Values
It’s important to remember that while our industry may seem niche, we work with companies large and small who seek FSC certification to improve their bottom lines.
One way American Green Consulting can live out our values as a company is to refuse to work with brands that are racist or misogynous.