CEE puts DEI focus on action and tracking progress

Mar 10, 2022
DEI strategies at CEE

As a nonprofit with decades of experience in energy efficiency, CEE has built a reputation for data-informed learning, meaningful collaboration, and practical solutions that drive permanent change. No surprise, our approaches to equity and inclusion fall right in line with this core organizational identity. 

Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council is made up of 10 staff who apply to participate, plus three permanent role-based members: CEE’s president, HR director, and communications director. At its core, the council exists to:

  1. support implementation of organizational priorities related to inclusive hiring, program impact, staff trainings, and more;
  2. track DEI initiatives in partnership with Leadership Group, Staff Council, and other departments;
  3. inform our staff and board about ongoing DEI activities and progress;
  4. act as a source of guidance and practical assistance, providing resources and guest speakers.

Importantly, although the Council supports, tracks, and reports on initiatives, this work takes place throughout CEE. Complementary efforts emerge from operations, programs, communications, learning, culture-building, and more. Guided by core values, our progress reflects and requires everyone’s shared work and intention.

As our DEI Council closed out its first year in late 2021, we shared an overview of related company actions and progress with the full staff. Now, as part of CEE’s commitment to be more transparent about our inclusion strategies, we offer this public post to underscore what we’re doing and why it’s so relevant to our work. This post covers activities from fall 2020 through fall 2021.


Operations teams are powerful forces for progress on companywide efforts. Of CEE’s 160 employees, nearly 20% of us spend our days primarily supporting office operations through finance, accounting, compliance, office operations and administration, IT, human resources, and communications.

Helping lead the way, our DEI Council drives and supports organizational action, as well as providing resources and reporting. Among our practices, CEE has introduced a contractor procurement form and vendor survey, both designed to encourage contracting with increasingly diverse vendors.

While developing annual workplans, teams across the company are asked to identify DEI-impactful focuses where applicable. We have also instituted new practices to encourage diverse and accessible CEE-led webinars and events. And staff are provided information and guidance to voluntarily share their pronouns in email signatures, their professional bios, and Zoom handles.

Guided by Human Resources, CEE’s jobs page, postings, and criteria are all designed to attract exceptional and diverse candidates. After new colleagues are onboard, annual performance reviews and surveys help us document employee insights into inclusiveness. Annual salary screens for equity further inform our budgeting and compensation framework.

Happily, we’re making headway with inclusive recruiting to strengthen our teams. Among our new hires in the past year, more than 50% self-identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color, and CEE’s BIPOC staff now represent about 18% of the full company. This includes 11% of CEE’s supervisors and 13% of our Leadership Group who self-identify as BIPOC. About half of CEE’s supervisors are women.

Organizational culture and engagement

In 2019, CEE identified equity as a core organizational value, crucial to achieve our vision for a healthy, carbon-neutral economy that works for all people. To support shared understanding and encourage cultural awareness and empathy, we program quarterly guest speakers, informal breakout sessions, and other company learning.

Our in-house newsletter “Watt’s Up” introduces staff to newly hired colleagues on a personal level, designed to promote inclusive relationships and general community-building. To improve understanding through transparency and programming, the DEI Council posts recaps of every council meeting and regularly shares resources and invites employee feedback.


CEE’s programs are another meaningful way we engage and support diverse communities throughout the upper Midwest, especially in Minnesota. Launching this spring, CEE will deliver Xcel Energy’s new Workforce Development program aimed specifically at attracting, training, and eventually permanently placing people of color and women in high-quality clean energy careers. (Note: This jobs training program kicked off as planned in March 2022, and graduated its first cohort of trainees in April.)

Much of our residential program work focuses on supporting under-resourced neighborhoods, renters, and families living on limited incomes. In partnership with cities and neighborhoods, our commercial programs provide special offers for entrepreneurs and small businesses in corridors of opportunity, such as Minneapolis’ “Green Zones.” Across the board, we’re pushing to lower an energy cost burden that is inordinately high for people of color and other marginalized Minnesotans.

Our programs rely on building and strengthening partnerships with culturally specific community groups, minority-led nonprofits, and relevant media — building strong relationships to engage, serve, and learn from key communities. Likewise, our city-sponsored loan programs target seniors and low-income families, including significant overlaps with marginalized communities of color.

DEI focus areas in 2022

Dismantling our country’s white supremacy culture requires us all to rethink old policies and practices every day, updating or wholly replacing them with smarter approaches that intentionally support equity and inclusion. Above are some concrete actions CEE has taken toward better company policies, recruitment tactics, operational practices, program angles, community relationships, and more. This ongoing practice of exploration and refinement is good for business and our souls.

Because company policies guide spending and hiring, nothing is more important than replacing white-centered policies with inclusive policies — but general visibility matters, too. So, beyond the steps laid out above, CEE’s public DEI statement formalizes our depth of commitment. Official imagery guidelines are designed to promote inclusive public communications. And with our blog and social media, we are working to increasingly tell stories through a DEI lens.

This year we’ll continue with promising efforts we’ve started, from guest speakers for staff to program tie-ins, an increasingly diverse workforce, and supportive operational policies and practices. Additionally, we plan to program more rigorous training and other opportunities that help us dig into key issues like microaggressions and navigating conflicting values. And we aim to keep strengthening how we track goal-driven strategies that lead to change.

CEE’s mission success depends on programs, services, and an inclusive workplace that supports all people to realize the economic and health benefits of our emerging energy system.

We invite community input and suggestions to help shape and improve our DEI approach. We are learning as we go and, as in all things, we believe our greatest strengths come from harnessing the wisdom of our own teams and the full breadth of the communities in which we live and work. There’s a lot to do and we’re just getting started.

Note: The image above includes a few of the excellent guest speakers who have visited CEE: From top to bottom, Vanessa Sheridan, Andre Koen, and Jennifer Nguyễn Moore — great insights and discussions, highly recommended!


Related Links

Equity and Inclusion at CEE

Equitable Decarbonization of the Building Sector

CEE's mission and values