Last June Cx Associates, along with many other businesses nationwide, openly and emphatically stated our support of Black Lives Matter and recognized the immense amount of work we as individuals, a company, business community, and society need to do to address and dismantle systemic racism. It’s been a long and challenging year on many levels since then, but Cx Associates has made it a priority not to let those challenges hinder our commitment to pursuing justice and equity for all. We’re dedicated to transparency and accountability in this process, and we plan to continue to update our network of clients, partners, and friends on our progress.
A PROCESS IN LEARNING: REDEFINING OUR GOALS
Our first step after releasing our initial statement was to do what we, as a small engineering company, know how to do well: gather all our staff together and develop an action plan. We had a brainstorming session and established a large list of ideas related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) ranging from immediate action items to lofty long-term goals that we can work together to accomplish. We then designated an Equity Working Group charged with keeping the momentum moving forward. As our Equity Working Group got the ball rolling, we concluded that our initial approach, while well-intentioned, was not grounded in a collective understanding of the very issues we’re hoping to address. Instead, we really needed to take a step back and think more broadly about who we want to be as a company, rather than showcase arbitrary things we’ve done in response to the call for action. From that perspective, we were able to see the deep need for our organization to have collective foundational knowledge and shared language around issues of DEI. It became clear that our mission as a working group was to cultivate a company culture that values justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and the hard work that accompanies continuously prioritizing and upholding those ideals.
With that newfound mission in mind, our Equity Working Group has set out to increase our company’s awareness, understanding, and comfort discussing a wide range of DEI topics and issues. We established a relationship with Abundant Sun, who facilitated a mandatory all-staff training for us this past Fall. After that training, we continued to collaborate with them to develop an internal discussion group where all staff engage in learning and meaningful conversation. This group now meets every other week to explore a curriculum beginning with basics like implicit bias and stereotypes and advancing to more complex topics such as environmental justice and sustainable business development. Not only is this helping us shape our desired company culture and keeping DEI top of mind, but we’re also fostering more honest and open conversation and understanding DEI’s rightful place in all our business conversations.
We’ve since developed a set of goals that are relevant to our company and impactful for our staff and clients both present and future, as well as our broader community. Over the next year, we’ll primarily be focused on:
- Cultivating a company culture that values justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
- Incorporating equity and environmental justice into our strategic business plan.
- Investigate and where necessary institute internal policies which promote sustained employment for all staff.
- Becoming a more visible community partner and outward advocate for environmental and climate justice.
- Increasing awareness around, and access to, STEM-related opportunities for populations under-represented in our industry.
WHERE WE ARE: BEYOND AWARENESS, DISCUSSIONS, AND GOAL SETTING
At the time of this writing, Cx Associates is in the process of scrutinizing our internal policies and practices and changing them where appropriate, most notably:
- Hiring. More specifically, where we look for candidates for positions to be filled. While we’re a small team who recruits infrequently, we know we need to cast wider nets beyond our typical networks that perpetuate the cycle of underrepresentation in our industry.
- Employee Benefits. We recognize that even the best efforts in hiring do not necessarily lead to retention, which is why we have a history of offering an excellent benefits package to our staff. We're committed to looking at our benefits through the lens of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to be certain they support all staff present and future.
- Professional Development. We’re working with a consultant to overhaul our professional development process and in doing so, attempting to remove biases and ensure equity.
- Strategic Planning. We’re planning to integrate DEI into our annual strategic planning retreat, and ultimately our strategic business plan, to be sure DEI is a part of all our business conversations and plans as we move forward.
- Charitable Giving. We’re vetting our charitable giving approach to ensure alignment with our mission and our commitment to justice and equity. Our most recent donation to COVAX, the vaccine procurement and supply operation led by UNICEF to ensure “global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines”, solidifies our position that environmental justice means health for everyone, everywhere.
Additionally, in July of 2020, Cx Associates joined a handful of other local businesses to establish an alliance within the industries related to the built environment in Vermont, including architecture, engineering, construction, and real estate development. The Equity Alliance describes its purpose as follows:
Our purpose is to leverage our energy, power, and privilege, as businesses and individuals, to effect real, positive, and sustainable change with a focus on dismantling systemic racism in the built environment and beyond. We will do this through education, sharing of resources, direct action, and mutual support and accountability.
The alliance is currently engaged in the groundwork of establishing and organizing a new group of collaborators across multiple organizations, meeting monthly to strategize and offer support and accountability. In addition, multiple task forces meet on a more frequent basis to research, make community connections, and carry out specific actions ranging from establishing job shadowing and mentorship opportunities to developing equitable business policy and practice recommendations specifically for the AEC+ (architecture, engineering, construction, and related) business community in Vermont.
WHERE WE’RE HEADED: COMMITTING TO THE LONG HAUL
Our conversations at Cx Associates are constantly evolving as we integrate new understanding of the depth and interconnectedness of issues of social and environmental justice. We’re continuously uncovering areas for improvement and grappling with our adherence to the status quo while simultaneously working to disrupt it. While this work often feels slower than we’d like, we know it’s a forever effort and we remain steadfast in our determination to help sow the seeds of just, equitable, and therefore sustainable communities within and outside our office walls.