Deeohn Ferris, JD
Deeohn Ferris is the President of the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) whose global mission is unleashing the power of communities and local leaders to build a better future shaped and shared by all. She is the first African American woman to helm a US-based international climate change NGO. She is an environmental lawyer, racial and social justice practitioner, and systems change thought leader. Her career is rooted in the tenets of racial, economic, and environmental justice.
During the emergence of the international environmental justice movement, Deeohn joined the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and instituted the nation’s first legal project dedicated to addressing disproportionate pollution impacts, and the interrelationship of economic, social, and health disparities. She has extraordinary experience working with marginalized communities, Tribal, indigenous, and faith-based organizations, civil society, and governments on 5 continents. She established the national Washington Office on Environmental Justice, where she led racial equity and inclusion strategies that prioritized people of color and engaged other under-represented and under-served population groups.
One of the early thought leaders, Deeohn’s environmental and legal knowledge and policy expertise were instrumental in raising the profile of environmental justice. She facilitated the national campaign that resulted in President Clinton’s Executive Order 12898, worked with Congress to convene the first-ever House and Senate hearings, and represented communities in governmental relations, in Congress, the media, and the United Nations.
Deeohn has grappled with the environmental and conservation sector’s diversity challenges throughout her career, prompting organizational shifts and inclusive strategies that broaden opportunities for people of color, women, young people, people with different abilities, and from different cultures. As the longstanding CEO of the nonprofit social venture enterprise, Sustainable Community Development Group, she implemented public-private partnerships and cohorts focused on equity, land use, health, and community resiliency.
Deeohn is a popular speaker, the recipient of many achievement awards, and a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. Her public service includes numerous federal committees and boards.