News & Resources

Moving Beyond Equity To Justice
January 16, 2024 | |

Like many of you, we have spent the last few weeks reflecting on what we’ve accomplished this past year and what the upcoming year has in store for Groundwork USA and the Network. Last year, we celebrated the authorization of funding for billion-dollar investments in historically under-invested neighborhoods to combat the impact of the climate crisis. This year, we look forward to many of these projects breaking ground, making 2024 an exciting year for the environmental justice movement.

While there is so much to celebrate in this moment, there is also a heaviness in recognizing that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The roots of environmental injustice run deep. The results of generations of discriminatory policies and disinvestment are reflected not only in the built environment but also in the policies and systems that enable social injustice to persist. While it’s imperative that we eliminate harm and transform under-resourced communities into healthy, green, and resilient neighborhoods, this alone is not enough to address the root cause of these problems. True environmental justice requires us to move beyond environmental change and meaningfully transform the systems perpetuating harm.

Both the challenge and the opportunity of this moment lie in our work to ensure these investments reach the grassroots organizations and the EJ communities the funds are meant for and to leverage these investments to transform systems to ensure this is just the beginning of sustained, long-term transformation.

Nearly a decade ago, Groundwork realized our work goes beyond changing places and changing lives; our success requires and enables us to work together to change systems. It’s how we do our work to change places and lives that creates systems change. By building the capacity of community members to lead this transformation and advocate for the equitable changes they want in their neighborhoods, we establish more inclusive decision-making processes.

To reaffirm our commitment to the imperative of intergenerational, systemic change – the foundation for justice – we are embedding this commitment directly into our vision statement.




Integrating justice into our vision reflects our commitment to long-term transformation, an explicit reminder that the true opportunity at this moment is in our potential to invest deeply not only in environmental changes but also in the people living in frontline communities, ensuring they are leading this transformation.

This vision is more than just words – it is deeply embedded in how we do our work:

We address injustice at its core by anchoring our work in an understanding of the deep-rooted policies and systems that have caused environmental and social harm. Through our Climate Safe Neighborhoods Program, residents explore the intricate link between historical race-based housing segregation and the current and anticipated impacts of climate change. With these data, residents champion neighborhood transformations and advocate for policy changes that bring multiple long-term benefits for themselves and their community.

We change which voices are prioritized in decision-making by providing resources, specialized training, and continuous support to help residents advocate for the changes they need and envision. Through our Technical Assistance Program, we partner with local stakeholders to integrate environmental justice and equitable development best practices into brownfield land reuse projects. This collaborative effort ensures that solutions mirror the diverse needs and aspirations of the community and equips community members with the opportunities, tools, and resources for sustained, long-term impact.

We foster shared leadership and collaborative partnerships by providing opportunities for young people to lead in transforming their communities. Our youth programs and workforce development initiatives provide youth and young adults with age-appropriate environmental education and employment opportunities to build their leadership skills and prepare them for future careers in the environmental field. These platforms enable young people to actively contribute to community development, enhancing their skills and knowledge and allowing them to make a tangible impact on their own lives, their community, and the built and natural environments.

We work alongside partners to enhance the capacity of organizations to access and utilize funding for environmental justice initiatives. Acknowledging that small grass-roots organizations don’t always have the capacity to navigate federal grant processes, we collaborate with our partners to address these barriers by offering resources, expertise, funding, and guidance. Together, we are working to ensure that these unprecedented funds reach the communities where they are needed most.

We step forward into 2024 with excitement for all the potential this year holds – and an even deeper commitment to ensuring that our work not only moves the needle towards greener, healthier communities but also toward a more just future where community members take the lead in shaping their future.


Thank you for being part of this journey with us!