When it comes to embedding DEI issues into organizations, the first question is often: How do we begin making the change that’s expected of us? ILFI’s JUST program helps companies take concrete steps toward becoming more equitable and inclusive.
“We encourage others to take a close look at social equity factors, which are shown to increase employee engagement and financial performance.” — Rochelle Routman, Chief Sustainability & Quality Officer at HMTX Industries
While 2020 has upended our personal lives in a dizzying number of ways, this year has also shed light on the role businesses play in progressing social change. Amid Black Lives Matter protests and a pandemic that has disproportionately affected minorities, the issues of race and equity can no longer be dismissed. Instead, individuals, corporations and entities feel a new urgency to improve their practices in a way that signals meaningful partnership. Our world is amplifying the importance of accounting for systemic issues; and it's imperative to have policies addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to demonstrate your internal, ongoing commitment.
The work going on within our organizations is a microcosm of the grander conversation we are all striving to have about DEI in our society. But unfortunately, there is no shortage of virtue-signaling — it is difficult to decipher talk versus action. Notwithstanding, according to the 2020 Mercer Global Research Study, less than half of US organizations (42 percent) publicly document commitments to racial or ethnic equality. Yet, businesses taking bold action toward establishing more inclusive workplaces consistently demonstrate higher levels of innovation, profitability and ability to attract top talent. Thus, formalizing and benchmarking DEI efforts play an instrumental role in the success of the modern organization. It not only helps organizations operate at their highest capacity, but also promotes systemic change.
By documenting your deliberate process, you can build a culture that values DEI. For many leading companies, transparency serves as the most powerful tool — it builds trust with talented individuals, establishes better customer relationships and increases employee retention.
In my role at the International Future Living Institute’s JUST program, I help companies take steps toward becoming more equitable and inclusive. And for most people I speak with, the first question is: How does our company get started? How do we begin making the change that’s expected of us?
The first step is to create an inventory of your policies as they relate to the six social justice indicators that we’ve established: Diversity + Inclusion, Equity, Employee Health, Employee Benefits, Stewardship, and Purchasing + Supply Chain. These indicators serve as the foundation for a DEI-forward organization. Luckily, improving upon these indicators isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Once you’ve created a policy inventory, you can proceed with these steps:
Identify gaps [similar to Integral Group’s Outcomes-Based Approach]
As a company (this isn’t just an activity for management!), conduct roundtables, retreats, and surveys to establish a roadmap to match your short- and long-term goals [Employee Engagement and Inclusion Survey]
Gather feedback, evaluate internal constraints and develop a plan toward filling the gaps identified in Step Two.
These steps alone will not create a transformative workplace, but they do serve as a catalyst for progress. We can improve our practices and policies with every iteration; as you continue to experiment, evolve, and pursue new strategies at your organization.
The good news is, you don’t have to do this work alone. We know how challenging it can be to pursue social good as part of your organization’s mission; the JUST Program can support your journey.
This is how it works: JUST serves as a transparency platform for organizations to disclose, track and iterate on key social justice indicators. You share your company’s current policies and practices, which we benchmark and score. We offer third-party insight into where you’re excelling and provide tailored guidance for how to improve. As a result, you’ll receive a JUST Label that you can publicly share as a testament to your DEI commitments. This provides transparency into the values of your company; and contributes to deeper relationships with your employees, customers and the community at large.