The board of directors for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) met recently to discuss what can be done as an organization and as an industry to encourage more diversity and inclusion.
After taking a look at their current board of directors in January, Britt Wood, NALP’s CEO, says they knew it was time to bring in more individuals from underrepresented groups, as they wanted their board to more accurately reflect what the green industry actually looks like.
Along with the intention of diversifying their board, Wood says NALP also wanted to help facilitate conversations of change within their network regarding diversity and inclusion, and these conversations were made even more relevant and pressing after the death of George Floyd.
“Certainly, what happened with George Floyd also activated a segment of the community in the landscaping industry that really wanted to see some change take place,” says Wood.
Soon after, NALP hosted a virtual diversity forum with over 30 members present. Along with NALP board and staff members, Wood says members from the Hispanic, LGBTQ+ and African American communities were in attendance, as well as representatives from NALP’s Women in Landscape Network.
Wood says this forum was a good starting discussion about what NALP could be doing more of to promote diversity and inclusion, as well as recommendations to the industry as a whole.
This forum led to NALP voting to create the Diversity and Inclusion Council, which Wood says will be charged with advising NALP on how to create a better atmosphere and how to better recruit more diverse NALP members.
“(Through this initiative) we can offer better opportunities for diversity and inclusion amongst NALP and really just overall help us improve and take advantage of the opportunities that a diverse workforce creates,” says Wood.
While council members have not been determined yet, Wood says they plan to appoint between 10-14 members comprised of people who have expressed an interest in serving on the council, as well as some current NALP board members.
“The goal is for this group to come together and outline the parameters of what they see the council looking like in the future,” says Wood. “I think the board was really in unanimous agreement over the fact that this is a council that would benefit from the people who are going to be doing the work designing the council.”
Overall, Wood says the takeaway question for them to think about was what else can NALP and the green industry do now to keep this work for diversity going?
“I think there were a lot of eyes opened as people shared their experiences, whether it be with NALP or just out in the world and what they’ve encountered,” says Wood. “There was a lot of learning that went on, too. It was an opportunity to share, but it was also an opportunity to talk about what could be done and some of the things NALP needs to look at.”
Wood says going forward, NALP will work to be more welcoming to minorities and create better opportunities for minorities to become NALP members.
According to Wood, Maurice Dowell, president at Dowco Enterprises, served as the guiding voice during the initial forum.
Wood says Dowell agreed to facilitate the discussion and made a point of making sure everyone had the chance to talk and share their stories. Wood adds that Dowell was also recently appointed to NALP’s board of directors.
“We’re thrilled to have him, and he’s shown some real leadership throughout the past six weeks on this particular issue,” says Wood. “Maurice really deserves some credit for stepping forward and helping us to facilitate the discussion.”
Wood says the initiative has been well received by NALP members so far, and there were even some members who remarked it was “about time” something like this was put in place.
Wood says the green industry continues to face workforce challenges, and the more new people that are attracted to the industry, the better prepared we will be to face those challenges head-on.
“I think diversity and inclusion present a great opportunity for us, and it’s certainly our hope that this will help us in our workforce challenges in terms of bringing new people in who may have not been (previously) attracted to our industry,” says Wood.
Wood says NALP plans to host more discussions on these topics in the future, and the hope is to open them up to allow for even greater participation. With video conferences being the safest and most effective form of communication at the moment, Wood says it’s difficult to host larger audiences, but NALP is working towards a solution.
In the meantime, Wood says it’s vital that green industry members take time to research and educate themselves. Wood says NALP strives to provide resources for members to help educate them on best practices for how to recruit a more diverse workforce, as well as how to make your place of business welcoming to individuals with diverse backgrounds once they are with your company.
Wood says it will take time to properly and thoroughly educate yourself, and NALP will be working to provide the green industry with every resource possible to ensure change happens.
“I’ve been fortunate in my career that I have worked for several different industries, and I think it’s important that the leadership of associations in those industries reflect the makeup of the industry,” says Wood. “I think creating a more diverse board is a positive thing. There are so many studies that show when you have a more diverse environment that your business actually excels. Our hope is that by arming our members with more information about how they can build a more diverse business, they can really embrace diversity and inclusion and in doing that, create better businesses.”