Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs: A Guidebook

California is a leader in climate policy and has modeled an unprecedented statewide effort to fight climate change. However, climate change impacts do not affect all communities in the same way. Frontline communities including low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous peoples and tribal nations, and immigrant communities suffer first and worst from climate disasters. This is due to decades of underinvestment and unjust systems that have left these communities with disproportionately high costs for energy, transportation and basic necessities, limited access to public services, high levels of poverty and pollution, and outdated and weak critical infrastructure.

Climate change exacerbates these injustices that frontline communities face, making climate adaptation and community resilience essential priorities. Strategies to tackle climate change must prioritize the most impacted and least resourced communities. California must develop programs and policies that truly center social equity in climate adaptation efforts and uplift frontline communities so that they do not simply “bounce back” to the unjust status quo after climate disasters strike but are able to “bounce forward” as healthy, resilient and sustainable communities.


To prioritize the climate adaptation and community resilience needs of frontline communities and address the historical neglect they have experienced, California must move beyond embracing equity to making it real. This requires centering community needs and building social equity into the very fabric of policies and grant programs that focus on climate adaptation and resilience. To get there, this Guidebook offers policymakers a blueprint on how to operationalize equity in policies and grant programs.


  1. Embed Equity in the Mission, Vision, & Values: Policies and grant programs should explicitly state a commitment to equity and specifically identify the vulnerable populations they seek to benefit. The effort must aim to create comprehensive climate strategies for communities that not only build the resilience of physical environments but address other health and economic injustices that climate impacts exacerbate.
  2. Build Equity into the Process: Processes should deeply engage community members so as to learn about their priorities, needs and challenges to adapting to climate impacts. The information gathered should inform the development and implementation of the policy or grant program.
  3. Ensure Equity Outcomes: The implementation of the policy or grant program must lead to equity outcomes that respond to community needs, reduce climate vulnerabilities, and increase community resilience. Outcomes can include improved public health and safety, workforce and economic development, and more.
  4. Measure & Analyze for Equity: Policies and grant programs should regularly evaluate their equity successes and challenges to improve the effort going forward.

Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs:

Making Equity Real in Climate Adaptation and Community Resilience Policies and Programs – A Guidebook.  The Guidebook provides specific recommendations on how to operationalize social equity in the goals, process, implementation and analysis of policies and grant programs focused on climate adaptation. The report includes examples from existing policies and grant programs to illustrate what the recommendations look like in practice. The Guidebook is intended for policymakers who develop policies (bills, executive orders, local measures) and agencies that develop grant programs. Communities and advocates may also use this Guidebook as a tool to assess how social equity shows up in climate adaptation and resilience proposals.

Related Research from APEN:

Greenlining released this report jointly with a report from the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, “Mapping Resilience: A Blueprint for Thriving in the Face of Climate Disasters.” APEN’s work shows a path forward for identifying the people and regions most impacted by climate change. Taken together, the two reports can guide policymakers in identifying vulnerable communities and providing them the climate adaptation resources they need.

Making Equity Real in Mobility Pilots Toolkit

Equity is transforming the behaviors, institutions, and systems that disproportionately harm people of color. Equity means increasing access to power, redistributing and providing additional resources, and eliminating barriers to opportunity, in order to empower low-income communities of color to thrive and reach full potential.  Low-income people of color often face financial, technological, physical, or cultural, barriers to accessing shared mobility and transportation services (i.e. bikeshare, scooter share, Uber, carshare, etc.). When mobility projects are not implemented with equity in mind, they reinforce the inequalities baked into our systems and can often deepen those inequalities.

Increasingly, equity is becoming mainstream in mobility. Yet this could turn into an empty promise without a clear strategy and understanding of how to put equity into action to achieve that promise. Equity is not just a commitment – it is a practice. Our Environmental Equity team has compiled a set of resources and tools intended to guide government agencies, companies, and other entities in the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of equitable mobility projects.

Greenlining’s definition of equity is specific to racial equity, given the legacy of institutionalized racism by government. Our emphasis on race is not about excluding other marginalized groups. These equity approaches are intended to also be applicable to creating equitable outcomes for other groups such as the elderly and people with disabilities. This resource outlines four key tools to help guide teams on the various ways to embed equity during each phase of the process. The following is an overview of the four different documents included in the toolkit:

  1. Overview: 4 Steps to Making Equity Real

This document is an overview of the four steps needed to operationalize equity within a pilot project based on our report, “Mobility Equity Framework: How to Make Transportation Work for People.” The following documents provide supplementary information to complete these four steps in an equitable, inclusive, and culturally appropriate way.


  1. Equity Considerations

Before developing an equitable mobility pilot project, read these “Equity Considerations” and think about whether and how your mobility pilot addresses the questions. These considerations are a starting point to operationalizing equity within a pilot project and answering them will give you a baseline for how your project centers and embeds equity. Going through these considerations will also help you identify areas in your pilot concept that are strong in equity, and areas that need improvement. Keep this list of questions and your responses for reference as you complete the four steps to developing an equitable mobility project.


  1. Community Engagement Best Practices

This document outlines best practices on for meaningfully engaging and empowering communities at all stages of project development and deployment. It provides examples of community engagement activities and lists various cultural considerations to bear in mind when conducting community engagement.


  1. Mobility Pilot Project Worksheet

Once you read the previous documents, filling out this worksheet can help kickstart a list of specific activities and tasks to develop and deploy an equitable project. As needed, reference the other documents as you fill it out.

Social Equity in California Climate Change Grants: Making the Promise Real

California offers a variety of climate change grants that aim to both fight climate change and also create a variety of other benefits. These grant programs can improve air quality and community health, reduce consumers’ energy bills and create clean economy jobs. But far too often these programs fail to adequately reach the communities with the greatest needs, especially low-income communities of color. For that reason, Greenlining believes officials designing these climate change grants must make a conscious, thoughtful effort to embed social equity into all aspects of each program and grant-making process.

A comparison of CalEnviroScreen maps showing the most polluted and economically disadvantaged communities with maps showing communities of color illustrates the literally toxic effects of redlining and its aftermath. A concerted effort to embed social equity into climate change grants can help put large amounts of funding to work relieving these historical inequities and level the playing field for historically disadvantaged communities.

In this report, we provide a roadmap for embedding social equity into climate change grants, focusing on four key steps:

  1. The program’s Goals, Vision and Values should explicitly state the social equity goals of the grant program to help ensure these goals get prioritized.
  2. The program’s process should include working with partners who have social equity expertise and incorporate strategies for inclusive outreach and technical assistance.
  3. The implementation of climate change grants is critical. Staff must make sure that grant awardees have the resources and tools they need to get the greatest possible environmental and economic benefits and minimize unintended negative consequences. Programs should target community-identified needs.
  4. Finally, programs should analyze their impact, based on clearly defined social equity goals and criteria track success. This requires proactive planning to collect the date needed, so that administrators and officials can use the analysis to improve the program going forward and inform the design of future climate change grants.


Equity Lab Toolkit: Development without Displacement

During the Equity Lab session on Development without Displacement, we developed an interactive activity to walk participants through creating an anti-displacement plan. Imagine that after years of underinvestment, your neighborhood is starting to see new development, and you get to be part of the group that is making sure that development happens equitably. Your job is to make sure residents, small businesses, and cultural institutions can stay, even if the rents go up. Here are the materials we used in that exercise:


Advancing Racial Equity in the City of Oakland’s Small Business Ecosystem

The City of Oakland released its 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy with a strong focus on entrepreneurship to build wealth in local communities of color. To support the strategy’s desired racial equity outcomes, The Greenlining Institute founded the Small Business Advisory Group, a roundtable comprised of local small business leaders committed to advancing the needs of Oakland’s entrepreneurs of color. Members include technical assistance providers, community lenders, ethnic chambers, and small business advocates.

With the goal of fostering a healthy and more inclusive small business ecosystem that allows entrepreneurs of color to thrive, the Small Business Advisory Group has developed a menu of recommendations designed to help the city of Oakland achieve the ambitious racial equity and small business goals included in its 2018-2020 Economic Development Strategy. We hope these recommendations will be useful for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, city councilmembers, the Economic and Workforce Development Department, and Oakland’s local business community, and offer our partnership for implementation. 

Autonomous Vehicle Heaven or Hell? Creating a Transportation Revolution that Benefits All

The rapid development of self-driving, autonomous vehicle technology is leading the way to a transportation revolution with three major components: self-driving cars, shared mobility, and electrification. While much has been written about how the coming autonomous vehicle revolution may change transportation for the better, this report represents the first in-depth analysis of a wide range of mobility, health, and economic implications of these three interconnected revolutions for marginalized groups like people of color, the poor, the elderly, and those with disabilities.

Greenlining’s analysis finds that optimistic scenarios for this transportation revolution – including reduced traffic, cleaner air and less space wasted on parking – won’t come true without action by government to ensure that implementation of these technologies recognizes their broad impacts, especially the needs of marginalized groups. A transportation revolution that truly benefits all will need to center on FAVES: fleets of autonomous vehicles that are electric and shared, with rules designed to disincentivize personal autonomous vehicles and to promote affordability and access, along with fair labor practices in this new industry. Without such intervention, the autonomous vehicle revolution could lead us to transportation hell, with a growing mobility divide between haves and have-nots.

2018 Utility Supplier Diversity Update: Opening Doors for Entrepreneurs of Color

Supplier diversity helps direct corporate procurement to businesses owned by historically marginalized communities. This practice supports economic development and access to contracting opportunities for women, LGBT communities and communities of color, and is particularly important for entrepreneurs of color.

General Order 156 requires that utilities submit supplier diversity reports annually. Using these reports, we analyzed the 2017 supplier diversity of 18 utilities across the telecommunications (cable and telephone), energy, water and wireless industries. Overall, the percentage of procurement from diverse businesses remained virtually unchanged from outcomes reported last year in our Supplier Diversity Report Card. But a few stand-out companies achieved relatively high spending with diverse businesses.

2017 Corporate Board Diversity: Major Players Fail to Reflect California’s Labor Force

Corporate boards of directors set policy, hire and fire CEOs, and have a huge influence on company behavior and culture. We examined the corporate board diversity of 59 companies with a major presence in key sectors of California’s economy and found that they consistently fail to reflect the state’s diverse labor force. Women and people of color were consistently underrepresented and in some cases missing completely. When board diversity so badly fails to align with the labor force, companies can more easily make mistakes that alienate groups of customers and miss chances to make their corporate environments welcoming to diverse employees.

Mobility Equity Framework: How to Make Transportation Work for People

For too long, transportation planning has focused on cars rather than people while neglecting communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. This framework offers planners and community advocates a step-by-step guide to a more community-centered transportation planning process that focuses on the mobility needs of communities and puts affected communities at the center of decision-making. It includes specific metrics to help evaluate mobility from an equity and community-centered perspective to help transportation planning focus on the needs of people, rather than car-centric infrastructure, as well as ideas for how to develop a people-based transportation planning process.

Nonprofit Hospital Spending: Exploring the Impact Beyond Hospital Walls

The Greenlining Institute aims to redefine the role of nonprofit hospitals through their Community Benefit dollars and have them contribute to the larger effort of reducing health disparities, particularly for low income communities of color. The objective of this report is to provide information on current nonprofit hospital spending in Alameda County and identify strategies to magnify the impact of their investments on low-income communities in the county.