Racism and Injustice: A Letter from RFF President Richard G. Newell

A note to the RFF community on systemic racism, injustice, and unrest in America

There are moments of such profound importance that we are called upon to voice and demonstrate our values—not simply as a professional organization dedicated to improved environmental and economic outcomes for people, but as a community of individuals committed to justice, equity, and basic human decency. This is such a moment.

This is not only about our work at Resources for the Future; it’s about who we are.

Amid protests condemning racial inequality, I have been reflecting on how to express our individual and collective outrage and grief over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor; the reprehensible targeting of people of color like Christian Cooper; as well as the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on black American lives and jobs lost. With the compounding inhumanity of individuals killed as a result of systemic racism and injustice, we cannot remain silent.

When action—or inaction—is rooted in injustice, our common values are violated. Our ability to advance both environmental and economic well-being depends on a system that is just, and we have a collective responsibility—as employees at Resources for the Future and as members of the global community—to serve the public good. When those values are threatened, we also have a responsibility to speak up and address systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts black and brown communities. This responsibility is both individual and institutional, and each of us is finding the ways we can most sincerely and effectively express our condemnation and act in response.

Institutionally, we have only recently begun a dedicated initiative to educate ourselves and build a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Stating our values and our commitments is a critical element of such progress, and ours are reflected in RFF’s Vision for a Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Future.

We welcome your thoughts and remain committed to listening, learning, and evolving, as individuals and as an organization. A more prosperous and environmentally healthy world is possible, but only if we also commit to defeating inequity and injustice in all its forms.