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Organizational Change
Is Your Brand Really Making Progress Towards Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice? 

More companies are outlining policies and setting targets for DEIJ, but meeting those commitments remains a challenge. At Just Brands ‘21 (May 6-7), major companies share keys to implementation of authentic strategies, to realize the moral and business imperative of becoming a truly inclusive brand. 

Since the murder of George Floyd and the events that followed in the summer and fall of 2020, US companies have released diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) commitments on an unprecedented scale. A multitude of new initiatives and investments have been announced, and many new targets set, by companies of all sizes and industries.

However, internal barriers to action and varying levels of authentic engagement from brands beg the question: To what degree are businesses actually walking the walk?

As our amazing speaker roster of 30 DEIJ experts will discuss at Just Brands '21 next week, it's not easy to track and understand the complexity of DEIJ. While relevant data is difficult to come by — and even the best sources reveal only a partial picture — let’s take a look at what the available metrics tell us about the state of DEIJ in the US today.  

Going into 2020, an analysis of S&P 500 companies by HIP Investor revealed a stark contrast between the prevalence of diversity policies and the underwhelming presence of corresponding diversity targets. In 2019, while 92 percent of companies had some form of policy related to gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, nationality and/or religion, only 19 percent had set related targets.

Image Credit: HIP Investor analysis, exclusively for Sustainable Brands

Fast-forwarding to the present moment, JUST Capital’s Corporate Racial Equity Tracker shows that employers are now more likely to disclose baseline DEIJ commitments, but less likely to disclose actions that show accountability toward progress. The tracker, which represents the most comprehensive current dataset on racial DEIJ, shows that of the US’ 100 largest employers, 29 percent can currently show action related to their quantitative diversity targets. 

Image credit: Just Capital Corporate Racial Equity Tracker

One major indicator of action on equality is greater diversity in company leadership: We still see a familiar and unsettling pattern where racial and gender diversity decreases as company seniority increases. CNBC finds that 48 percent of employees at the support staff level are racially diverse, and this number falls to 14 percent at the executive level. It is well documented that the pandemic has disproportionately affected women in terms of unemployment, domestic violence, unpaid labor and even homelessness. On top of this, the gender wage gap persists across racial and ethnic lines, as shown by analysis from the Economic Policy Institute

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index does show progress on LGBTQ+ equality; 94 percent of the Fortune 500 now have gender-identity protections in their nondiscrimination policies, compared to just 3 percent in 2002. That being said, only 57 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, and 30 percent still have not made a public commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.

While companies are outlining more policies and setting more targets for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, the challenge in meeting those commitments remains. Moving from intention to action will require a deep understanding of best practices and implementation of authentic strategies. At Just Brands ‘21 on May 6th and 7th, brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Salesforce and Johnson & Johnson will address their approach to advancing justice and equity in business and help to equip others with the tools, resources, and expertise needed to realize the moral and business imperative of becoming a truly inclusive brand.