Environmental and social justice

by Nico Kienzl and Shanta Tucker, Directors

Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Theater for a New Audience

Environmental and social justice are pillars of Atelier Ten’s mission. Two ways we’ve practiced what we preach within our community is by sharing our knowledge and expertise as part of the Urban Green Zone Greener Task Force and by reporting on our internal organizational operations as part of the International Living Future Institute’s JUST Label program.

Zone Green was introduced 6 years ago in New York City as a package of revisions to the NYC Zoning Resolution to facilitate more sustainable and energy-efficient design. Zone Green addressed impediments to building thicker, better-insulated walls and installing solar panels, solar shading systems, green roofs, greenhouses and more. Last fall, Urban Green convened a Zone Greener Task Force of over 40 stakeholders to develop a roadmap for additional upgrades to the Zoning Resolution, which would further facilitate updates and improvements to Zone Green for the next generation of green building. Shanta Tucker and Nico Kienzl, directors of Atelier Ten US, joined the Task Force discussions and provided expert advice on how large commercial and institutional buildings construct high performance building envelopes. These discussions helped shape a package of recommendations that have since been presented to the City and are currently under consideration by New York City Council and city agencies.

We also looked internally at how we operate as an organization within the parameters of social justice and equity as part of the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) JUST Program. Building on the success of its Declare Program, which encourages the elimination of Red List chemicals and materials in building products, the ILFI believes the power of transparency can gain traction in market forces to create social change. To this extent, the JUST Program calls for organizations to publicly declare and showcase their social justice and equity policies and practices.

JUST is not a verification or certification program, but rather provides a social justice transparency platform for organizations to disclose their operations, including how they treat their employees and where they make financial and community investments. Providing a common tool and language for organization comparison, the JUST Label is outlined by 22 specific social and equity indicators that are housed within the 6 general categories of diversity; equity; safety; worker benefit; local benefit; and stewardship.

As part of the process, Operations Leader, Lee Simon and Associate Director, Larry Jones reviewed and analyzed the firm’s Human Resources metrics and policies. While pleased, and not surprised, with the degree of social justice and equity shown, we realized that some of our reporting practices could be fine-tuned for better transparency and scaling.

JUST offers a roadmap for us to improve employee satisfaction and happiness through organizational focus on diversity and inclusion, and it gives us the framework to measure social equity within the firm. We are making improvements to our reporting and plan to renew our JUST Label in 2019 to keep our employees motivated and strongly connected to the Atelier Ten’s purpose and values.