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Insights What is environmental justice and why is it important in the USA?

We all have a chance to advocate and take part in environmental justice. Across all industries, there is much work to do to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. Creating a powerful commitment to this is a vital first step in environmental justice.

At AtkinsRéalis , and within our brands Atkins and Faithful+Gould, we make sure our policy on equality, diversity and inclusion remains at the heart of every operation and project. If you want to help us push for a safer, more inclusive and diverse future and to combat inequalities and to improve your quality of life, we may have an exciting career opportunity for you.

The skyline of downtown Asheville, North Carolina at sunset with green trees in the foreground and mountains in the distant background

What is environmental justice?

In the 1980s, the terms ‘environmental racism’ and ‘environmental justice’ were coined and gained traction as a pressing and necessary agenda. Environmental justice is the concept that everyone deserves access to a healthy, enjoyable environment. It fights against the issue that some communities are facing more inequities in terms of environmental management than those of a wealthier socioeconomic status.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines this as, "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."

History of environmental justice in the USA

In the 1980s, there was a defining event that helped to propel the movement for environmental justice. In North Carolina, a decision was made to create a toxic waste landfill site in Warren County, a place with a predominantly African-American population.

The protests in North Carolina gathered national attention, which opened up research into the systemic history of environmental injustice. Many minority and low-income communities spoke up about how they were exposed to environmental risks such as pollution and toxic waste, highlighting the disproportionate effect in differing socioeconomic communities.

The impact of environmental injustice

There is a lot of work to do as environmental injustices remain prevalent, with recent statistics showing that minority groups and those in poverty are more likely to be impacted by climate change:

With these statistics in mind, it is important to understand how environmental injustice can occur across a range of industries and areas. A career at AtkinsRéalis provides an opportunity to really improve the status quo. From energy efficiency to transportation, to public health and resilience, ensuring meaningful involvement for environmental justice across all sectors is vital for building a healthy environment for all.

Why environmental justice is important

With growing climate, environmental and sustainability challenges, taking fast action is becoming increasingly important. However, this fast-action should not come at the cost of environmental injustice. Instead, it is a chance to create the environmental laws, policies and changes that benefit everyone, regardless of race or socioeconomic situation, and creates a world where everyone can thrive.

Creating a healthy environment for society would improve overall well-being, and particularly as we emerge from the global pandemic, the health of all individuals and a safe environment to live in is paramount.

Fundamental aspects of environmental justice

The pillars of environmental justice center around the term meaningful involvement, which includes aspects such as:

  • Allowing the public to contribute to law and regulatory decisions
  • Ensuring everyone is able to participate in decisions that may affect their health and environment
  • Raising community concerns in all decision-making processes
  • Facilitating involvement for all those who may potentially be affected by a decision.

Driving environmental justice for the future

At AtkinsRéalis , with our work across engineering, construction, energy and architecture, we know we have an opportunity to support greater environmental justice and ensure that every member of the organization has a chance to make a positive difference for the future.

From helping to make clean energy jobs more inclusive to Native Americans to promoting diversity in the architecture and construction industry, our focus is on learning, growing and making the positive changes that will impact the communities we serve.

We are always looking for talent to help drive and champion environmental justice, ensure projects are considerate of all and make sure any concerns or opportunities haven't been overlooked. From architecture and planning jobs in the USA to civil engineering or project management careers, there are lots of ways you can drive positive change in your career with AtkinsRéalis . Become a part of an inclusive future by browsing our available USA jobs today or signing up to receive tailored job alerts.