A sustainable future is meaningless if it is not also an equitable future

USGBC’s commitment to equity is grounded in our 25+ year mission to better the lives of all people within a generation through sustainable buildings, communities and cities. Green building and social equity go hand in hand, and we know that addressing and emphasizing sustainability through green building can provide communities with much-needed resources.

Now is the time to double down toward building a more inclusive vision. We will hold ourselves accountable to doing everything in our power to ensure the promise of sustainability is not limited by socioeconomic status, race or any other factor rooted in inequity. It will take work to get us there and it is work we are committed to doing alongside our vast community of members and stakeholders.

Our commitment

Without social equity, our projects and organizations cannot be truly sustainable. We know that building a more equitable society will require deep changes. What can we, as a green building community, do to be more intentional, thoughtful and impactful as individuals, within our organizations, in our projects and in all we do?

To meet our goal of a more equitable world for all, USGBC has announced USGBC All In, a new program to encourage and empower people, projects and organizations at all scales to incorporate equity into all aspects of decision-making, policy and governance, and implementation.

USGBC All In recognizes that commitment to equity requires deep and ongoing engagement and conversation, and respectful listening to diverse and often unheard voices, followed by meaningful action and ongoing dialogue and reevaluation.

USGBC approaches this work with humility, recognizing there is much to learn and understand about what equity really means, and that we must seek out the knowledge, passion and experience of many individuals and new partners who have been working on these issues for many years.

It is our goal and our hope that this program will serve as a call to action and collaboration to change the way we do business in the building industry.

Listening and learning

USGBC recently elevated the importance of equity in the green building industry by making it one of the four pillars of its second generation – sustainability, health and wellness, resilience and equity. In support of the equity pillar, USGBC intensified its efforts to listen and understand issues around equity – convening summer and fall Equity Summits as well as interviewing a variety of Changemakers.

We heard from a diverse group, including many new voices from beyond the green building movement. They taught and inspired us to consider important themes, identify opportunities and address critical questions in the building industry:

  • Acknowledge our past/Understand our present/Listen to diverse voices: How did we get to this point? How we can listen more intently to new and challenging voices?
  • Educate and advocate: We need to keep learning and advocating for equity in all we do in our organizations and our projects. We need to encourage everyone to take the first steps.
  • Hold ourselves accountable: We all need to understand our role in addressing equity and change in our individual organizations and the project teams we assemble, with our project designs and our interactions with the communities.
  • Share ideas and take action: We need to start to share solutions that will encourage new ways of thinking that take responsibility for the effects of our projects on the inhabitants, the workers and the surrounding community, and we need to begin to act.

How do we take these lessons and build upon them? USGBC All In is where to begin.

USGBC All In strategy

The USGBC All In strategy will serve as a roadmap for USGBC programs, policies and actions to collaborate with stakeholders to address social, health and economic disparities in their communities while we continue to learn and evolve as an organization.

Proposed priorities for 2021 include scholarships, expansion and evolution of LEED, workforce development, research, education, transformation of internal USGBC governance and other strategies.

USGBC equity strategy priorities

  1. Expand scholarships, grants and funding to support members of underserved communities.
  2. Make LEED more accessible through Arc for All to enable underserved and underrepresented communities to participate.
  3. Establish a USGBC equity scholar program in partnership with colleges and universities for students from underserved communities.
  4. Recognize people, projects and organizations using a framework that provides tools and verifies achievements in governance practices and project design, construction, and operations.
  5. Evolve equity strategies in LEED to prioritize equity in credit intents and requirements, and create new pilot credits to fill gaps.
  6. Educate and develop a new workforce of green building leaders.
  7. Transform internal USGBC governance.
  8. Evolve equity strategies in the suite of GBCI rating systems to encourage projects to adopt equity strategies.
  9. Build partnerships to educate and hold us accountable and align with best practices of our partners.
  10. Convene education sessions to listen to those who have experienced inequity.
  11. Conduct research to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.
  12. Raise the living standard for all to create a more inclusive USGBC community.

In order to implement these priorities, USGBC will develop the following.

Education/ workforce development programs:

  • Expand mentoring, scholarships, and grants to encourage a more inclusive generation of leaders; create USGBC equity scholar program; and support LEED AP education and exams for disadvantaged communities
  • Increase inclusion and diversity
  • Include equity CEU requirements for LEED AP/LEED Green Associates
  • Workforce development within our communities for professionals and the construction industry
  • Support programs that link diverse companies with project teams to develop more inclusive projects

All In Equity Action Plan:

  • Evolve equity strategies in LEED (credit intents, synergies, new pilot credits)
  • Planning tool
  • Assessment tool
  • Resources, case studies and stories
  • Recognition programs for people, projects, organizations
  • Organizational equity
  • Review and transform USGBC’s internal governance, policies, programs
  • Create/highlight best practices for more equitable policies, programs, governance
  • Create a Code of Ethics for member organizations
  • Highlight ESG achievement tools; incorporate into Arc and other applications
  • Partnerships and collaboration: To make this happen, we will need partnerships/ collaboration; listening tours and town halls; and linkages to existing programs that support diversity.

View the All In strategy

All In: Building Equity Together framework

The ALL In strategy includes a framework that will enable individuals, organizations and projects to incorporate equity into their lives and their work. It also includes the tools and resources to support these efforts.

As a tool for change, LEED has been very effective over the past 20 years in transforming how the built environment is planned, designed, constructed and operated. And now we are exploring how the LEED rating system can serve as either an introduction for those of us who have not considered equity - a tool to encourage positive action in our projects, in our organizations, and in our communities - or an inspiration to go deeper, towards real transformation.

We understand that addressing equity issues in a community, a project or within an organization cannot be accomplished by checking off boxes. But lists of questions and potential strategies can provide a starting point; a way to begin, a place to see the issues that must be considered in order to foster a collaborative process with all interested parties in the organization and the community.

One of USGBC’s first actions in implementing this framework is the creation of the All In Equity Action Plan for Projects.

Equity Action Plan

The Equity Action Plan provides tools to get us to that transformation by posing questions, providing potential strategies, and supplying resources. These tools will help people think about equity and how they can incorporate it into their work, identify specific strategies, and allow for verification of the equity practices and achievements. It will also provide recognition for great, impactful work in equity. The tools and resources can be used by LEED project teams but also by those not seeking LEED certification.

For building projects and project teams, the Equity Action Plan will offer help to teams in answering the critical question — equity for whom? It challenges and encourages project teams to holistically consider the needs of people on their own team; people in the surrounding community; building occupants, inhabitants and visitors; and workers and communities affected by the supply chain.

The Equity Action Plan consists of four components:

  • The planning tool is built on our social equity checklist (part of the Integrative Process credit). This tool introduces equity in building projects as well as in the organizations that make up the project team. It asks a series of questions about intent and possibilities and is appropriate for teams that are just starting to think about equity, all the way to those that have already begun to incorporate equity into their work. The planning tool should be used in the earliest stages of planning, but also to create a process that is continued throughout the life of the project.
  • The assessment tool provides strategies to respond to specific questions/issues identified in the planning tool. The assessment tool includes new strategies, references to existing LEED credits and LEED Pilot credits, and an option for the project teams to propose their own strategies.

Though a project can use the planning and assessment tools independently, a project can accomplish more if they use both of the tools in an integrated manner, and developing a recognition program.

  • Resources to support project teams. This will include tools for specific topics such as assessments and mapping, case studies and stories of projects that have incorporated aspects of equity, and experiences of organizations and project teams that contributed to success.
  • Recognition Program to encourage and inspire great work in equity.

Review the Planning and Assessment Tool.


The initial draft of the Equity Action Plan Planning and Assessment Tool is now ready for your feedback. This is intended as a starting point only; a place to gather your suggestions, spur further ideas and directions. With your feedback and support, we are hoping to finalize and release the first beta version of the Equity Action Plan the first week of April 2021.

We are seeking feedback, ideas and suggestions about USGBC All In. After you review the full All In draft program and the Equity Action Plan we want to know:

  • What are your overall reactions?
  • What’s missing and what should be added?
  • What should be deleted/revised?
  • How can we make these documents more meaningful?
  • What good resources have you seen – tools, case studies, stories, organizations that have done great work in the field?
  • What would make you more likely to use the tools of the All In program?

Submit your comments.

USGBC Equity Summits

Social equity is imperative to create healthy and thriving, communities and cities for all people. It must be deeply embedded into how the work we do as an organization and community.

USGBC held Equity Summits, which were listening and learning tours that convened USGBC members, sustainability advocates, key social and environmental justice leaders and economic and community development experts. Learn more about the 2020 spring and fall USGBC Equity Summit speakers and view the event video archives in the USGBC Equity Summit playlist.

USGBC’s equity journey

Social equity at USGBC is woven throughout the organization and can be seen in several USGBC programs.

Tools and resources

On-demand educational courses from USGBC's Education @USGBC

A few of the steps along USGBC’s social equity journey

Community programs

  • Advance Campaign for Social Equity
  • BOD Sustainable Communities Working Group
  • Center for Resilience
  • Communities Together
  • Green Apple Day of Service
  • Greenzone Projects
  • Green for All + Green the Church
  • Green Health Partnership
  • GRESB: Health & Resilience Modules
  • LEED Lab, Learning Lab & Students
  • LEED For Cities + STAR Integration
  • Natural Talent Design Competition
  • New Orleans Principles
  • Project Haiti
  • Women in Green
  • Social Equity Guiding Principle
  • Social Equity Pilot Credits & Working Group

Scholarships and mentorships

  • BOD Mentorship Program
  • Community Green Scholarships
  • Staff in New Orleans & Schools Fellows

Affordable housing

  • Affordable Green Neighborhoods
  • Affordable Housing Advocacy


  • Community-Based Sustainability Forum at Greenbuild
  • Faith-based Peer Group at Greenbuild
  • Greenbuild Jobs at Greenbuild
  • Greenbuild Affordable Housing Summit W/ Enterprise
  • Shades of Green Reception at Greenbuild
  • Scholarships to Greenbuild


  • Communities & Affordable Homes Summit
  • NAACP Summit & Initiative

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