Why DE&I is the vehicle to deliver your ESG strategy in 2023
The reality of the world we live in today (owing to the pandemic and microscopic effect) emphasises the levels of inequity and inequality to a far greater extent than pre-pandemic times.
We have seen this play out in the events of the last three years, and this is a pattern that has repeated itself, as history tends to do, when we think back to the Black Death and Spanish Influenza pandemics.
Now is the time to focus on keeping that emphasis of driving a more diverse, equitable and inclusive society in our sights as it firmly impacts us individually and as an organisation. DE&I is proven to result in a more profitable high performing culture - however, this is not just for an organisational benefit it is also about morality and society in general.
This requires firm buy-in from all of us, but can also feel overwhelming for leaders in organisations when our time and effort is spread over so many priorities and we don’t know where to start.
I came across a quote on social media which, while focused on relationships, really resonated for me in this context. It said: “When people fall in love with someone’s flowers and not their roots, they don’t know what to do when autumn comes.”
In the same way, as individuals, leaders, and organisations, when it comes to our investment and intention, we need to be firmly rooted in that to sustain our focus, as opposed to focusing on what we can do on the surface to simply tick a box or be seen to be towing the line.
Embedding DE&I within your organisation
One way to tackle this is to remember that we are not talking about DE&I as a separate strand of what we do or who we are, but we are talking about it as BAU. This is also how it should be when it comes to our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) agenda.
ESG should be part of all our thinking and conversation. It’s becoming a critical factor for investors to make their decisions on where, what, and how to invest. Like DE&I, ESG initiatives are just as important in thinking about what the market associates our brand with and how likely we are to attract talent in terms of our value proposition as well as customers, based on what is on offer and how that links to our DE&I AND ESG strategies. It is about the bigger picture - our internal workings and our external market impact.
According to Fiscal Note’s “The 8 biggest trends in ESG in 2021”, firstly, organisations are looking inward at their carbon footprint and how they tie directly to climate change around the world (Environment). In third position, employee safety and human capital management comes into play (Societal) and finally, in fourth place, board and executive diversity features (Governance). These are three critical components to focus on in the top five and as we can see, are all integral to both DE&I and ESG challenges.
Given the above-mentioned trends, let’s look at just how much DE&I drives our ESG strategy.
How DE&I drives ESG strategy
To address the challenges of reducing our carbon footprint, we need to ensure that we have diverse teams AND that everyone’s voice can be heard. That means we’ll have the best ideas to solve extraordinarily complex problems.
We need to be actively reaching out to our consumers to understand their needs and find ways in which we can deliver our services in the most environmentally friendly way possible to also retain our consumer base and save the planet.
The more we cast our net for diverse voices and views, the greater probability we will have to produce a market-leading solution. One could also argue that the pandemic has forced our hand to embrace video conferencing meetings far more than we would have before, which also helps us reduce our footprint by cutting back on travel, and this in turn poses its own challenges when it comes to being intentional around inclusion.
Ensuring employee safety and human capital management means that we need to find a way to create a sense of belonging at work. This can be done through support and the consideration that not only are people diverse, but that various aspects of their diversity will intersect with one another to bring about challenges that will require more deliberate action and effort to support. This support may span across the talent life cycle and we should address each aspect through a DE&I lens.
Diversity, equity and inclusion at board level is key to ensuring that we are governed by a group of people who make more sustainable and inclusive decisions on the direction of the business.
The World Economic Forum substantiates this by an example in referencing “Why Diverse Teams are Smarter” by David Rock and Heidi Grant in the Harvard Business Review. This article said: “Striving to increase workplace diversity is not an empty slogan — it is a good business decision.” In the world of today, this is key to flourish or we may find ourselves languishing.