Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Leon Kaye headshot

Bezos? Fink? What About These Unsung Black Heroes of the Sustainability Movement?

We highlight these black heroes whose environmental and community work has left a huge impact not only on the black community, but also society at large.
By Leon Kaye
Black Heroes

While plenty of attention shines on the likes of Larry Fink and Jeff Bezos for their climate action tactics, there is no shortage of activists who are making a huge difference day to day when it comes to our relationship with the environment. But many of these leaders don't benefit from vast media coverage. Being that we’re in the third week of Black History Month, we at TriplePundit thought we’d highlight these black heroes whose environmental and community work has left a huge impact not only on the black community, but also society at large.

By all means, this is far from an exhaustive list, yet we thought these five visionaries deserved to be recognized.

Rose Brewer: A professor of Afro-American and African studies at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Brewer writes about environmental racism, notably how toxic waste dumped into poorer communities has left behind health and social problems for decades. Her work has included leadership roles in the Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM), an advocacy group that takes on the disparities that result from environmental injustice.

Many writers have referred to Dr. Robert Bullard as the “father” of the environmental justice movement. The title dates back to his research in the 1970s, which revealed the correlation between black neighborhoods and the location of garbage dumps. His 1990 book, Dumping in Dixie, was instrumental in bringing the civil rights and environmental movements closer together.

George Washington Carver (shown above in a portrait by U.S. artists Betsy Graves Reyneau): Yes, we already know a lot about this revered scientist thanks to his research on alternatives to growing cotton (as in peanuts), as well as his work to prevent soil depletion. But did you know Carver also wrote extensively on the risks associated with relying on monoculture crops, looked at nature through the lens of biomimicry before the word became part of our lexicon, and was averse to any process that resulted in waste?

A nurse by profession, the late Barbara Hillary is largely credited as being the first black woman (and oldest person) to travel to the North and South Poles. She also founded the Arverne Action Association, which strived to improve the quality of life in her Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, New York. Her time in both polar regions, along with a trip to Outer Mongolia during the last year of her life, drove her to become a climate change activist.

Savonala “Savi” Horne: As Executive Director of the Land Loss Preservation Project, Horne and the organization she leads provide legal support and assistance to financially distressed farmers and landowners across North Carolina, including the most vulnerable African-American rural communities. This group also works to help farmers transition away from growing tobacco, promotes sustainable agriculture, and boosts responsible forestry efforts.

From the weekly Brands Taking Stands Newsletter: Be sure to subscribe!

Image credit: U.S. National Archives 

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye