Sustain Who we are

Diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice

All of Sustain’s work is guided by values and principles of achieving a healthy, fair, humane and sustainable food system. Our alliance also has shared concerns that are highly relevant to the food system, but go beyond just food, farming and fishing, such as tackling climate change, restoring biodiversity, upholding human rights, and promoting economic prosperity and sustainable development that benefit everyone, not just a privileged few – at home and around the world.

Sustain staff, colleagues, alliance members and many others in the food system have a profound commitment to promoting equity, meaning that we want to promote diversity and inclusion across a wide range of characteristics. We recognise that there are entrenched and structural causes of inequity and want to play a part in tackling these, and to be helpful allies to those leading the way. In particular, we recognise the extent and depth of racial inequality and racial injustice in the food system and want to do what we can to help address this. 

This page seeks to share what Sustain is doing to improve diversity and food justice. We want to be open and transparent about what we are doing, and be open to challenge. We also want to encourage momentum and innovation in our sector, and to participate in the sharing of good ideas about how to bring about change.

Reporting, transparency and accountability

We report quarterly to Sustain’s Council of Trustees to tracks our team’s progress against targets and ambitions set out in the Sustain Strategy, and to report regularly in our Diversity Progress Report and Annual Report. We also keep members of the Sustain alliance updated through our newsletter Digest and, where appropriate, through relevant project and campaign working parties and newsletters.

Read Sustain's latest progress on diversity and anti-racism, published as part of our commitment to transparency, sharing learning and being open to critique and ideas. 

Sustain runs an internal diversity group to ensure that we maintain this work as an organisational priority. The group meets bi-monthly and it's aims are to:

  • Identify priority areas for action to pursue the DEI and anti-racism agenda.
  • Oversee and drive implementation of actions on DEI and anti-racism, sometimes pursued by thematic sub-groups or task-and-finish groups where this would be helpful.
  • Provide support to the Diversity Outreach Coordinator to help them achieve their aims.
  • Research and share good practice with the group and wider staff team.
  • Reflect on what has worked, where issues have arisen, and discuss what has been learned.

Looking for a DEI and/or anti-racism consultant? We have compiled this list to share the details of consultants that Sustain has had contact with (with their permission). 

Spheres of influence

We adopt a ‘spheres of influence model’ to guide our work to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism. This helps all of us to think through how we can change ourselves, as well as to use our privileged position to influence change more widely.


This approach recognises that we can take action as individuals and as colleagues, employers and decision-makers. As an alliance, we are also part of a wider network where we can be allies and activists. We have challenged ourselves to think: We are already campaigners and change-makers – how can we use those skills, networks, and the privilege that we have to help make change happen, at a local and national level?

Spheres of influence: 'Ourselves'

Motivation comes from emotion – we have to know and care about the issues, and hear the voices of people who experience structural injustice. Sustain makes time for people to learn and to share. We run unconscious bias and other training; invite speakers and activists to challenge us out of privileged ruts and old ways of thinking; and seek better connections with, and appreciation of, organisations and pioneers working to bring about change.

Collaboration across the staff team helps us maintain motivation, determination, problem-solving attitude, organisational commitment and momentum.

Spheres of influence: 'Our organisation'

We have to get our own house in order. Sustain implements and embeds changes across a range of areas. We:

  • Run a diversity working group (see above). 
  • Have established a staff of colour group, which is an optional, informal and confidential space for staff of colour to meet monthly to offer peer support; share issues; and input into organisational culture, policy and practice.
  • Allocate a diversity budget from our core reserves (and within project budgets where possible) to enable actions such as
    • Recruitment of a Diversity Outreach Coordinator to cultivate movement-building.
    • Paying people from diverse backgrounds and those with lived experience - especially those on low income or from cash-strapped organisations - to lead or contribute to training sessions, webinars and communications work.
  • Prioritise diversity in our recruitment processes and employment policies, seeking to attract greater diversity in applications from, and appointment of, people from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Read more detail about our commitment to recruitment for diversity.
  • Ensure that our communications reflect diversity: imagery, language, approach, where we speak, how we speak, who we speak to, and to whom we provide opportunities to speak and be heard. Read more detail in Sustain's Diversity Style Guide.

Leadership for diversity 

Sustain has a Council of Trustees that are elected from the Sustain alliance membership and a senior management team appointed to run the organisation and coordinate the alliance.

Sustain is a majority female-led organisation, and has been since its founding in 1999. Across the 20 years to 2019, there was always a healthy balance of gender representation, and we have always welcomed people from diverse backgrounds to take part, without prejudice, including people from a range of sectors, professional and ethnic backgrounds and people with a range of personal characteristics. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that across the first 20 years of Sustain, the leadership was predominantly White and not very diverse in terms of other personal characteristics.

Sustain takes proactive steps to welcome greater diversity into our Council of Trustees, including supported role-share positions for younger people from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds to gain experience in charity leadership and governance, and to contribute their unique perspectives. Two people in these role-shares became Trustees in their own right in 2022, and we welcome their expertise and contribution.

Following annual elections in December 2023, membership of Sustain’s Council of Trustees is 80 per cent female; just under half of Trustees are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds; and just under half of Trustees have self-declared personal attributes that are among ‘protected characteristics’ in terms of religious affiliation, disability and sexual orientation or identity.

In the Sustain staff team, the people who we work with are Sustain-style leaders in their own right – cultivators of the growing and diverse movement for change. We have made it explicit in all job descriptions and recruitment processes that integration of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism is a priority. We also integrate this into training and personal development for the staff team. In 2024, we are running Action Learning Sets to help colleagues work together to explore how to address these issues within the context of their specialist work.  

Sustain is a participant in The RACE Report, run by Hindu Climate Action, Nature Youth Connection and Education, South Asians for Sustainability and Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK – a Sustain alliance member). We encourage Sustain alliance members to take part. This will improve transparency and catalyse action on recruitment for diversity in the environment sector.

We host paid internships to promote opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds – for them to gain experience in the third sector; and for us to be influenced by new voices and more diverse ways of thinking.

Further, we are working to broaden our network of project partners, freelance consultants and suppliers of goods and services to promote diversity through our activities, events, fundraising and procurement practices. We updated our ethical funding policy to ensure that when Sustain gives out grants, we make special efforts to reach out to applicants from diverse backgrounds and help them overcome barriers to participation.

Spheres of influence: 'Networks we work with'

Our overall aim is for Sustain to cultivate opportunities for a wide range of people to be involved in and have their voices heard through Sustain’s work and our spheres of influence.

Each of our projects and campaigns examines how to cultivate greater diversity of representation and influence on activities, events, involvement and programme development. This work covers areas such as Real Bread Campaign and Children’s Food Campaign ambassadors, voices of diverse farmers and fishers, promoting diversity in community food growing, structural approaches to tackling food poverty, encouraging culturally appropriate food in services and involving people with lived experience. Such work is communicated via project and campaign newsletters and websites, featured in our publications, and reported in our Diversity Progress Report. 

In 2023 we recruited a Diversity Outreach Coordinator, whose work includes developing understanding and supporting progress in this area across the alliance and beyond. This includes the coordination of a food and racial justice working group established in April 2024 with representation from organisations across the sustainable food and farming sector. 

We are also using Roots to Work – our sustainable jobs platform – to promote equitable employment practices and to showcase the diversity of talent in the sector. Alongside that we support speaker opportunities by people from ethnically diverse backgrounds in the sector at universities, aimed to inspire and inform the future workforce of opportunities and role models in the movement.

Sustain recognises that certain groups and perspectives have been, and continue to be, underrepresented, both in our sector as a whole and specifically at events. Every speaker, presenter and trainer at our events is invited based on their expertise, knowledge or skills as relevant to the event and topic at hand. Sustain proactively seeks and invites speakers from diverse backgrounds, perspectives and lived experience. We also consistently ask members, partners and others in our sphere of influence to do the same. We actively help speakers to overcome barriers to participation.

We are also developing conversations about how we can better influence national policy to promote equity and justice across the food system. This work covers areas such as food poverty, healthy and culturally appropriate food, access to land for food growing, fair trade, international trade agreements and the impact of domestic policy decisions on people in less wealthy countries of the Global South, especially in relation to poverty, biodiversity loss and climate change.

Sustain will allocate budget and staff time to enable progress on the matters outlined above, and fundraise to pursue new work and enhance impact. We commit to continuous improvement, remaining open to change, and open to ideas, challenges and constructive criticism. We will monitor and report on our progress; learn by doing; and not be afraid to try things out or get things wrong. We will acknowledge and learn from our mistakes.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2024
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