UNCF Report Creates Blueprint to Activate HBCU Leadership in Climate Change and Sustainability

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Roy Betts UNCF Communications 240.703.3384 roy.betts@uncf.org

Eight-part framework to develop foundational understanding of current climate and sustainability practices at HBCUs

Today, UNCF (United Negro College Fund) and its Institute for Capacity Building announced the release of a comprehensive report on the current activities and future aspirations of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in climate change, sustainability and environmental justice.

The HBCU Climate Action Blueprint: Sustainable Campuses, Empowered Communities” utilizes an eight-part framework to develop a foundational understanding of current climate and sustainability practices at HBCUs. Supported through an unprecedented investment by Waverley Street Foundation, the report also develops a blueprint for activation of a network of HBCU Climate Action Hubs.

UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax will unveil the report and its findings at the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in Long Beach, CA, on Feb. 13, during a keynote conversation with director, producer and comedian, W. Kamau Bell.  Hosted by the Intentional Endowments Network and Second Nature, the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit is the premier annual gathering of higher education leaders committed to addressing inequity and the climate crisis.

“For HBCUs, addressing the climate challenge is about creating a future where our communities can flourish, prosper, and continue to contribute to the rich tapestry of human progress,” said Lomax. “HBCUs are positioned to lead the nation and world in a just transition to a greener and more equitable future for all.”

Twenty historically Black colleges and universities were surveyed in the UNCF report, representing a mix of public and private HBCUs located in urban, suburban and rural settings across eleven U.S. states and territories.

Participating institutions include Bennett College, Bowie State University, Clark Atlanta University, Dillard University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Huston Tillotson University, Jackson State University, Jarvis Christian University, Lane College, Morehouse College, Rust College, Savannah State University, Shaw University, Spelman College, Stillman College, Talladega College, Tennessee State University, Voorhees University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and University of the Virgin Islands.

“HBCUs are extraordinary at helping their communities prepare for the next generation, so it is natural that they have embraced the cause of climate change and environmental justice,” said Dr. Kendra Sharp, strategist, UNCF Institute for Capacity Building, UNCF. “With additional supports, HBCUs can transform the environmental realities of their communities while preparing the next leaders of the green economy.”

The HBCU Climate Action Blueprint: Sustainable Campuses, Empowered Communities” identifies six key findings to guide activation of HBCUs in climate change and sustainability:

  • HBCU foundational sustainability and climate action activities represent untapped assets: A substantial 85% of HBCUs have already implemented green programs, highlighting their commitment to sustainability. These initiatives include curriculum enhancements, incorporating solar panels, forming student-led environmental groups, establishing community gardens and promoting biking and walking trails.
  • HBCU leadership is uniquely equipped to pioneer sustainability efforts in the communities their institutions serve: 40% of responding HBCUs rate climate and sustainability initiatives as extremely or very important when compared to other institutional priorities, indicating a strong commitment across institutions in elevating climate and sustainability issues.
  • Addressing the stark funding gap is critical to unleash HBCUs’ full potential in the global sustainability and environmental justice movement: A mere 15% of HBCUs surveyed have a specific budget allocated for climate and sustainability projects, highlighting the scarcity of financial resources available in these critical areas.
  • HBCUs’ embrace of renewable energy positions them as trailblazers in community-focused clean energy solutions: All responding institutions promote energy conservation through programs, initiatives and campaigns on their campuses, indicating a universal commitment to reducing energy use.
  • HBCUs are molding the next generation of environmental leaders through innovative sustainability education: Half of the surveyed HBCUs offer degree programs or certifications in fields critical to sustainability.
  • HBCUs are prepared to drive transformative environmental justice and climate action for marginalized communities: 80% of institutions participate in community continuing education on climate and sustainability, including student-led projects, festivals, conferences, and engagement campaigns that are open to the public.

The report also details a call to action and blueprint for HBCUs to develop climate hubs. When activated, climate hubs empower the voices, perspectives and authority of historically excluded communities in local, regional and national responses to the climate change crisis.

“Collaboration between HBCUs and local grassroots partners brings a sharper focus to climate challenges and solutions, and clears pathways for community-led climate innovation,” said Alexandria McBride, senior program officer, Waverley Street Foundation. “It’s been a privilege to learn alongside UNCF and our other ‘climate hubs’ grantee partners as we develop a strategy for transformative climate action in communities of color.”

UNCF will also highlight the role of HBCUs in climate action, sustainability and environmental justice during its annual convening, UNITE 2024: UNCF Summit on Black Higher Education, taking place July 28 to Aug. 1, 2024, in Atlanta, GA. HBCUs and other climate leaders Interested in speaking at UNITE may visit the UNITE website to submit a proposal. Applications are due on March 31.

For more information on the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building and its initiatives and projects, visit www.uncficb.org.


About UNCF

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. While totaling only 3% of all colleges and universities, UNCF institutions and other historically Black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 15% of bachelor’s degrees, 5% of master’s degrees, 10% of doctoral degrees and 19% of all STEM degrees earned by Black students in higher education. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 50,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized trademark, A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.