What is an inclusive language guide and why does it matter?

Environmental communications inclusive language guide

Language matters. As communicators, we know language is powerful in shifting attitudes and behaviours. We are acutely aware of our responsibility to use language that embeds equality within our work to ensure a just transition for all. As a business it’s also important for us to create a culture in which people feel safe, represented, and valued – and being mindful about using inclusive language in the workplace is a huge part of building that culture. 

Reflecting on the language we use at Greenhouse has been a key pillar of our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work over the last two years. During this process, the value of inclusive language guidance for our team to support us in our ongoing work became clear, and our Inclusive Language Guide was born.

What is inclusive language?

Inclusive language is a way of communicating that avoids biases, slang, or expressions that discriminate against marginalised groups. It emphasises respect and equality, ensuring everyone feels acknowledged and valued regardless of gender, race, disability, or other personal attributes. 

What does inclusive language mean to us at Greenhouse?

Inclusive language to us means:

Respect and empathy – Using inclusive language demonstrates respect for others and acknowledges their identities. It shows that we care about treating people fairly and valuing their experiences.

Avoiding harm: Insensitive language can perpetuate stereotypes, reinforce biases, and cause harm. Learning about inclusive language helps us avoid inadvertently causing offence or hurt and address internal biases.

Effective communication: Inclusive language can enhance communication by making it more accessible to a wider audience. It helps to ensure that everyone feels included and understood, and as we continue to tackle the climate emergency every day, this is crucial to our success.

Why has Greenhouse Communications created an Inclusive Language Guide?

Greenhouse is committed to being an inclusive employer. As one of our core values, we encourage our team and wider network to create an environment that values, respects, and appreciates people of all backgrounds.  

We know that maintaining an inclusive culture requires ongoing effort, education, and a commitment to creating a positive and welcoming environment for all individuals. Using inclusive language is central to this and as a team, we actively avoid language that is biased, stereotypical, or discriminatory. Our Inclusive Language Guide supports us in this work.

What is the purpose of the Inclusive Language Guide?

The purpose of this guide is to support our team and wider network in helping to create a safe and accessible workplace where people are valued and feel that they belong.

The guide presents inclusive language examples, as well as words and phrases to avoid. It serves as a starting point and is not intended to be a prescriptive document; rather it is a guide on our use of inclusive language, and we expect it will be updated as language evolves and changes.

What have we learned while building the Inclusive Language Guide?

The process of creating the Inclusive Language Guide has been an eye-opening process, forcing us to interrogate the origins and context behind a whole range of words and phrases embedded in our lives, and consider how we might use more inclusive alternatives.

Standard office-speak has come under scrutiny, and alternatives identified: the casual appropriation of the word ‘powwow’ from Indigenous Peoples, for example, where ‘check-in’ or ‘catch-up’ suffice. Remember our ‘Greenhouse Pioneers’ blog series? That’s now Greenhouse Gamechangers, following our decision to avoid a word with connotations of colonisation. The whole process of creating an Inclusive Language Guide alerted us to the prevalence of problematic terms used by businesses and organisations every day, and forced us to consider alternatives.

It also held us accountable for embedding inclusive language across all of our operations, including making sure that gender inclusive language, culturally inclusive language, disability inclusive language, and LGBTQ+ inclusive language are embedded across all our policies and day-to-day communications.

Why are we sharing our Inclusive Language Guide?

Radical collaboration sits at the centre of Greenhouse Communications’ mission. We are committed to helping bring about a just transition, and recognise that knowledge sharing is a key mechanism in reaching this goal. We are sharing our Inclusive Language Guide with our network in the hope that it can support other organisations’ work to create inclusive and progressive spaces in which we can all do our best work.

It works both ways too; we value the expertise of our network, and would love to hear any feedback on our guide, and anything that might be missing. We expect the document to be ever-evolving as more people engage with it – and as language itself continues to develop.

If you have feedback on the guide, please share it with our DEI working group so we can continue to improve it. You can get in touch by emailing dei@greenhouse.agency.