Diversity, equity and inclusion: progress 2020 to 2022

Company Three

A summary of key actions we have taken from 2020 to 2022 to make progress on our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They are listed under the relevant pillar in ACF's Stronger Foundation's report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Pillar 1: Invests time and resources in understanding and defining diversity, equity and inclusion

December 2019

We held a staff meeting to discuss the Association of Charitable Foundation's pillars of good practice and how we think Esmée measures up to each. We also gathered anonymous responses via an online staff survey. Through this we identified pillars 1, 3, 4, and 6 as the first priorities for Esmée and suggested some practical ways forward in addressing them. We also highlighted the need for greater organisational understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion.

July 2020

We held introductory training for all staff on diversity, equity and inclusion, facilitated by an external expert. Its purpose was to start to explore and define what diversity, equity and inclusion means to Esmée and to build confidence on language and practice. The training highlighted the need for Esmée to think more intentionally about what our values are, how equity and inclusion are part of them, and how we can ensure our work better reflects our values.

August to September 2020

We worked in small groups with an external facilitator to develop a set of organisational values in an inclusive way.

January 2021

DEI training is included in the induction programme for staff and Trustees. Further training and support on DEI is also an integral part of Esmée’s People Plan, which supports our strategic plan (see more under Pillar 4).

July 2021 to Ongoing

A DEI Staff Group (which all staff are invited to attend) is now meeting regularly. Members of Esmée’s Involving Young People Collective are also invited to attend and contribute. The purpose of the Staff Group is to support Esmée to be a diverse, equitable and inclusive organisation through its mission, strategy, values, and DEI Action Plan. The Group reports to SMT and updates are shared with Trustees.

September 2022

We held training sessions for staff, Trustees, and our Involving Young People Collecting on Understanding Inequity, and Trans Awareness.

October 2022

With support from the DEI Staff Group, we agreed and published our organisational definitions for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

To do

We plan to recruit a part-time DEI Coordinator role to support activities across the organisation on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Pillar 2: Produces and reviews strategies that will implement DEI practices

July 2020

Our Trustee Board approved an action plan for addressing the pillars of good practice. Trustees agreed that diversity, equity and inclusion is fundamental to our new strategy: to who and what we fund, to how we operate as a staff team and Board, and to how we use our influence.

October 2020

We launched our new five-year strategy, which outlined our commitment to DEI and shared how we would prioritise DEI across our three main aims in our Guidance for Support.

November 2021

We updated our strategy and guidance in Creative, Confident Communities, making it clearer that we want to support work that is inclusive and accessible, and represents the diverse communities in a place.

July 2020 to Ongoing

We started working with an Involving Young People Collective to advise us on how we might involve young people in how we work and make decisions.

July 2022

We updated our strategy and guidance for A Fairer Future, which takes into account our commitments to DEI, particularly in relation to increasing our funding for organisations led by communities experiencing racial inequity.


We have identified and continue to explore actions we can take to ensure DEI is embedded across our operations (for instance, in our recruitment, funding, endowment and supply chains) as well as our strategic aims and plans to deliver them. This includes improving the accessibility of our application process, for instance by providing downloadable Word documents of our guidance and sample application forms and adding an accessibility tool to our website. In February 2023, we also introduced Access Payments towards accessibility-related support for applicants requiring it.

Pillar 3: Collects, tracks and publishes DEI data on its own practices and performance

January 2019

Using a tool developed by Funders for Race Equality Alliance, we conducted an audit of a sample of our data to look at how much of our funding is going to organisations led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity.

August 2020

We surveyed trustees and staff to provide better diversity data. We will conduct this survey annually and publish the data on our website. See our most recent Trustee and staff diversity data.

October 2021 to Ongoing

We have adopted the DEI Data Standard, which we supported the development of (see Pillar 9) to gather and track DEI data about who our funding is reaching, as well as applicants to our funding. Learn more about our approach to classifying our data.

September 2022 to Ongoing

We contributed a sample of our data to the Funders for Race Equality Alliance’s second audit. We are also conducting a full analysis of our portfolio and applicants over the last year using the DEI Data Standard. We published our initial findings in a report, Who our funding is reaching, at the end of 2022.

  • Staff and Trustees review our DEI action plan and progress to date annually, and we will share updates on our website twice a year.
  • We are working with our Investment Adviser on an ongoing basis to address DEI issues in our investment portfolio and the extent to which managers have policies and procedures in place.
To do

An audit/review of our investment strategy is planned for 2023. A consideration of DEI factors will be part of the discussions and process.

Pillar 4: Has a diverse Board of Trustees and staff team, both in terms of demographics and experience

September to December 2020

We began a public recruitment process for additional Trustees with the aim of increasing the diversity of our Trustee Board. Two new Trustees joined our Board in January 2021.

May 2021 to Ongoing

We developed a People Plan, which sets out the high-level principles of how we operate including how we recruit and induct people into the organisation. As part of this, we looked at how more inclusive practices could be applied – for instance, where appropriate, we are providing interview questions to applicants in advance so they can prepare. We are also working with recruitment partners to ensure we always have diverse shortlists.

Learn more about our approach to recruitment.

Pillar 5: Reflects and implements DEI practices in its funding activities

March 2021

We offered a total of £2m in additional unrestricted grant funding to organisations in our portfolio that are led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity.

June 2021

We created a new fund open to performing arts organisations in our portfolio to provide additional grants to support reopening plans and strengthen commitments to DEI. In total, 40 grants were awarded, totalling £1.8m.

July 2021 to Ongoing

In 2021 we set out on a project to bring community voice into Esmée to help us explore how we could shift power and make our funding process more equitable. When reaching out to organisations led by and for communities experiencing racial inequity, we found that people had already been consulted many times, and that a wealth of existing research could already answer most of our questions. So, instead of setting up something new, we:

  • Pulled together data, research and recommendations for funders from existing reports, together with an independent review of our funding process by TSIC (see point below) and DEI data on applicants and our portfolio. We then held a workshop to consider it and recommend actions, including:
    • Ringfencing “New Connections” (working title) funding for organisations which don’t meet our current criteria, and
    • Involving people with lived experience of the issues we aim to tackle in shaping this New Connections funding.
January 2022 to March 2022

We commissioned TSIC to carry out an independent review of our funding process to inform more inclusive practices and processes. See the report of their findings: Independent diversity, equity and inclusion assessment of Esmée's grantmaking process. We are considering the recommendations and have begun to incorporate them into our funding practice.


We are proactively seeking out and contacting organisations who are led by, and for, communities experiencing racial inequity, and share our impact goals, but do not currently meet our eligibility criteria. We want to learn more about their work, the challenges they face, and start a conversation about what we can do to support them.

See our blog about our work over 2021 to improve DEI in the environment sector.

To do
  • We are exploring alternative routes to our funding for organisations who share our goals, but do not currently meet our eligibility criteria (working title: New Connections funding), and plan to share our plans in 2023. This includes working with experts by experience to help design the process and have a role in decision-making.
  • Review how we understand and define impact, as well as our expectations for organisations – particularly for community-led organisations, and the implications of our strategy to make fewer, but longer grants.
  • Review our DEI expectations for all organisations we fund.
  • Review our decline reasons and exclusions, taking DEI into consideration

Pillar 6: Expresses its DEI commitment, policies and practices publicly

December 2020 to Ongoing

We published our commitments on DEI with a link to our original DEI action plan alongside our values.

  • To ensure that we continue to make progress on DEI, we regularly review our action plan, committing to further actions and adding them to this page as they are agreed.
  • In addition to this page, we will provide updates on key activities – through our communications and in our Annual Report.
  • We take part in activities exploring approaches to DEI with others – for instance, we took part in an event on Funding BAME creativity and the Equality Impact Investing Project.

Pillar 7: Makes itself accountable to those it serves and supports


We invite general feedback on our DEI plans by email to communications@esmeefairbairn.org.uk, and through specific information gathering exercises. For instance, in October 2021, we worked with NfP Synergy to survey our funded organisations as well as funding applicants from the last three years about their experience of us. In 2022, we reviewed this data alongside the DEI monitoring data collection of our funding and the results of the DEI review of our process, and considered what actions we need to take to improve.

To do
  • We will work more closely with groups and organisations led by and for people with the experience of the issues .
  • We will have a robust system for collecting and acting on feedback, including a clear route for informing strategy, practice and policy. This will be part of the work we are doing to bring community voice into Esmée (under Pillar 5).

Pillar 8: Uses its own power to advocate for and advance DEI practices

February 2021

We provided funding for Race for Nature’s Recovery, a collaborative programme of over 30 environmental charities who are using the Government’s Kickstart Scheme to secure placements in the environment sector for16-24 year olds from communities experiencing racial inequity. We will help to ensure that the learning from this initiative forms the foundation for a wider sustainable programme of work beyond the lifetime of the Kickstart Scheme.

April 2021

We supported our Involving Young People Collective to host a hackathon to address the lack of diversity in the Environment sector.

August 2021 to Ongoing

We have updated our application process to include a question asking organisations about their approach to DEI. Through our assessment and grant monitoring processes, we want to learn about the progress organisations are making so that we can share good practice, but also to support those that have further to go on DEI and are keen to improve their practice.

October 2021 to April 2022

We started working with Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK), Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), and The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to develop a UK-wide racial reporting initiative to help tackle the lack of racial diversity in environmental charities. The RACE Report (which stands for Racial Action for the Climate Emergency) launched in April 2022.

  • We use our communications to highlight and share good practice on DEI.
  • We use all our tools, particularly Funding Plus, to support organisations leading the way on DEI, as well as those looking to improve DEI within their organisation.
  • We support organisations tackling racism, injustice and discrimination by promoting their work and sharing good practice.

Pillar 9: Collaborates with others to promote and implement DEI practices

August 2020 to September 2021

As part of the DEI Data Group, we commissioned the development of the DEI Data Standard, a shared framework to help funders monitor equity considerations in grantmaking. We adopted the Standard in September 2021 and all applicants are now asked to complete a DEI monitoring form based on the Standard when they submit an Expression of Interest. We also asked all the organisations within our portfolio to complete it.

April 2021 to Ongoing

We are part of an arts funders collaboration (with Art Fund, John Ellerman Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation) to find out how we can best support arts, heritage and culture organisations to engage with UK history in an inclusive way. This includes co-funding a pathfinding research project as well as Museums Association's Decolonisation Confidence and Skills programme.

October 2021 to Ongoing

Working with nine other funders, we are supporting the Foundation Practice Rating, a rating system designed to assess foundations on accountability, transparency and diversity, and to help improve practice across the sector. The most recent report was published in March 2023.

Learn more about the results and Esmée’s Foundation Practice Rating assessment.

  • We are an active member of the Funders for Race Equality Alliance to support efforts to improve the sector’s practice on DEI.
  • We are using learning from reports on funding for racial justice (including those by Funders for Race Equality Alliance, Baobab Foundation, Ubele and Ten Years Time) to inform our funding practice as well as our work to bring community voice into Esmée.
  • We will learn from the experience of funders delivering ring-fenced funds for communities experiencing racial inequity, and identify practice Esmée can implement.
  • We are supporting a cross-sector initiative led by Wildlife and Countryside Link and Natural England to benchmark DEI performance among environmental organisations, disseminate best practice and remove barriers to careers and participation to communities experiencing structural inequity. This led to the development of a Route map towards greater ethnic diversity, which includes guidance for organisations with best practice on taking action.