Over the past several years, headlines in the U.S. have been dominated by environmental disasters like the Flint water crisis, California droughts and wildfires and Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria. As the public health, economic and environmental impacts of these events persist, particularly within marginalized communities, calls for environmental justice continue to grow.
According to the EPA, environmental justice signifies the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”
President Biden’s strategy for climate policy repeatedly emphasizes the Administration’s ambition to “deliver” on environmental justice. The Administration plans to achieve this by:
- Implementing an “environmental justice enforcement strategy,” which will guarantee the Department of Justice works towards environmental justice and provides solutions for environmental violations
- Collaborating with local-level environmental justice leaders
- Establishing environmental justice entities to coordinate across federal agencies, such as the:
– White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council
– White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council
– Office of Climate Change and Health Equity
– Interagency Working Group to Decrease Risk of Climate Change to Children, the Elderly, People with Disabilities, and the Vulnerable
- Ensuring portions of select federal investments benefit “disadvantaged communities” by supporting pollution reduction, safe water infrastructure, clean transit, sustainable workforce development and affordable housing
- Developing a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and community notification monitoring system to enhance public health and environmental support in communities impacted by pollution
On this topic, President Biden explains, “[It is] the policy of my Administration to secure environmental justice and spur economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment in housing, transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure, and health care.”
The Bottom Line: The rise of environmental justice is yet another sign that sustainable solutions must be inclusive – addressing not only environmental factors, but also economic, social and public health impact. Stakeholders, including those in agriculture and food and beverage sectors, can contribute to sustainable development by ensuring their commitments and actions are equitable and inclusive.
Maura Killian, RDN is an Account Executive at FoodMinds and is based in Chicago. She is a member of FoodMinds’ food and nutrition affairs team, which uses our global expertise to help clients navigate the evolving food landscape and prepare for the future. Reach out to [email protected] to start the conversation.