How to Activate the Topic of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Activating the materiality matrix with Diversity & Inclusion as a material topic
How to Activate the Topic of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Publ. date 20 Dec 2021
Despite an increase in diversity policies and trainings offered by companies, organizations are still challenged to activate the topic of diversity and inclusion. This is because current strategies prioritize raising awareness over tangible action. In order to activate the topic of diversity and inclusion, if found to be a material topic for your company, diversity policies & trainings need to go hand in hand with inclusive, hands-on practices.

Companies struggle with diversity & inclusion despite efforts

In a survey of 900 employment leaders, 77% responded that they noticed increased stakeholder pressure on the topic. Part of this pressure comes from ESG ratings, as the Corporate Sustainability Assessment by S&P Global added three new questions and updates two others on its Labor Practice Indicators criterion, which denotes diversity practices.

However, an arguably greater source of pressure are a company’s own employees. As Microsoft found in its 2021 Work Trend Index, 40% of the global workforce considers leaving their jobs in 2021. This is despite the fact that 80% of companies of surveyed employment leaders have at least 10 diversity policies in place, and 50% offer at least 11 different types of training.

The reason for this is likely to be that the top two priorities of organizations on diversity and inclusion are the creation of a speak-up culture and raising awareness. Other priorities including recruiting diverse talent and paying equal salaries are examples of tangible action. But do these factors alone lead to an increased sense of diversity and inclusion?

As the survey of diversity leaders shows, raising awareness and improving diversity metrics will not result in a greater sense of inclusion. Companies need to actively work towards creating an environment in which a diverse group of employees can thrive.

Learning from the frontrunners

Companies that have scored well on the Financial Times’ European Diversity Leaders are a great source of inspiration for successful D&I programs. All three companies analyzed below have in common that diversity & inclusion is one of their key materialities, or in the case of Biocoop, one of their key priorities. It shows that companies who activate their materiality matrix effectively can reap the benefits.

The leader on the list, Biocoop in France, ranks first because it scores well on diversity metrics and has diversity programs in place. It ensures equal pay for women and offers the same opportunities to advance as it does for men. It increased its goal to hire people with disabilities by 50%, so that they will make up 6% of the total workforce.

Italian company Chiesi stands out because of its high share of women in the workforce, which is far higher than the industry average in the pharmaceutical industry. It employs 53% of women in the entire workforce and 64% in R&D. It also launched a program where employees discuss, together with an expert, the meaning of diversity & inclusion to further act upon implementing practices related to the outcomes in the company.

This year, Volvo has launched a policy where all parents, including same sex, adoption, and non-birth parents, can receive 24 weeks off. While the overall share of women in Volvo is but 19%, the share of female managers is higher than this, at 20%. However, what stands out are Volvo’s Diversity & Inclusion labs, which give trainings on the topic but also allow for employees to discuss the topic with one another.

Three tips for activating diversity & inclusion in your company:

1) Identify hotspots on diversity and inclusion performance
Engage the human resources team to create an overview of diversity metrics across the company. This should constitute of quantitative factors, such as the employee force categorized by different diversity metrics, as well as qualitative factors, such as the type of diversity policies, practices and trainings are in place. Such an overview points towards the areas in which diversity and inclusion needs to be improved.

2) Identify best practices on selected hotspots
For each hotspot identified, look for best practices from industry and regional peers. Best practices should focus on the type of policies and programs that are effective in improving diversity and inclusion. Because it is truly the diversity and inclusion programs that make a difference in the organizational culture.

3) Create a flagship program together with affected stakeholders
Invite stakeholders that are affected by the identified hotspots to create flagship programs. These should be co-designed by the people that are affected and be backed with sufficient internal resources as well as committed employees in order to keep the program going.

Want to know more how to activate your materiality matrix?

Whether on the topic of diversity & inclusion or another material issue identified in your materiality assessment, Finch & Beak supports companies in acting on their materiality matrix. For more information on how Finch & Beak can activate your materiality matrix contact Johana Schlotter, at or +31 6 28 02 18 80.

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

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