In recent years, many organizations have implemented Diversity & Inclusion policies with the aim of creating inclusive and supportive work environments free from discrimination, where everyone is able to participate and where everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Sometimes this is done because everyone else is doing it and to ‘tick the box,’ sometimes it is done because the company considers it the politically and/or morally correct thing to do, sometimes it is done because it delivers better financial performance, sometimes it is done to both attract and retain talent, and sometimes it is done for a mixture of the above reasons.
Recently, Iceland passed a law requiring companies to prove they pay employees of both genders the same. By 2022, they hope that the gender pay gap will be closed. In March 2019, Philip Morris International became the first international company to be certified globally for equal pay by the independent third-party EQUAL-SALARY Foundation.
Research by Mckinsey & Company, entitled ‘Delivering through Diversity,’ shows a correlation between diversity, (defined as a greater proportion of women, and ethnically/culturally diverse individuals) in the leadership of large companies and financial outperformance. Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation. The highest-performing companies on both profitability and diversity had more women in line (i.e., typically revenue-generating) roles than in staff roles on their executive teams.
Whilst progress has been made by companies on the D&I front in the past few decades, the data indicates that there is still a considerable amount of work to ensure fair and just treatment of all employees, irrespective of their gender, age, race or sexual preferences. On March 14th, and 15th 2019, IMD Business School held an LGBTQ+ event where speakers and participants shared inspiring stories as well as the significant challenges they face to feel accepted as equals in organizations, irrespective of the job that they perform. According to McKinsey’s study, companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. That this relationship continues to be strong suggests that inclusion of highly diverse individuals – and the myriad ways in which diversity exists beyond gender, and race (e.g., LGBTQ+, age/generation, international experience) – can be a key differentiator among companies.
We are more humane, more productive and more sustainable when we embrace diversity and inclusion in organisations.
Now, let us extend the concept of diversity and inclusion more broadly from that of people and organisations to species and our planet. When we view earth through the D&I lens, the ecological situation is critical and urgent for all its inhabitants. Dramatic losses in biodiversity threaten our very existence. Some key statistics from scientists include the facts that:
—the Earth is undergoing a "mass extinction event,” the first since the dinosaurs disappeared some 65 million years ago, and only the sixth in the last half-a-billion years
— about 41 percent of amphibian species and more than a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction.
— about half of coral reefs have been lost in the last 30 years.
—globally, monitored populations of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined in abundance by 60% on average between 1970 and 2014.
According to Ceballos, Ehrlich & Dirzo:
“All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life."
In the last few decades, there have been catastrophic declines in both the numbers and sizes of populations of both common and rare vertebrate species through habitat loss, over-exploitation, invasive organisms, pollution, toxification, and more recently climate disruption.
If we want to continue to flourish on this earth, we need to act now to protect our planet. Abiding by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals covering areas such as no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, climate action, life below water, life on land and affordable and clean energy- could be a powerful way to make a difference to all living species, our own included. Organizations, and the leaders of organizations, have a critical role to play in creating hope by moving from denial to awareness, from defense to acceptance and from distraction to action.