Sustainability is a concept that covers a lot of ground (pardon the pun). At its most simple, it’s something that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” As we continue to see huge economic and population growth alongside a devastating environmental threat, the need for greener business practices are becoming more important to those entering the workforce.
So, where does Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) fit into all this?
ED&I, by its nature, deals with human rights. Sustainability efforts, especially when it comes to climate change, also deals with human rights. That’s the link; and when it comes to incorporating those two initiatives into a business model, they utilise the same methods.
As a rule, implementing sustainable business practices includes:
- Incorporating the principles of sustainability into every business decision.
- Offering greener alternatives to products or services.
- Committing to environmental business operations and principles.
That said, to be truly sustainable, a business shouldn’t just focus on its environmental resources; it should also commit to sustaining its social resources too. These include its employees, customers and reputation. Longevity is key in this respect, as sustainability is about building something for the greater good that lasts.
A Progressive Culture
One way to do this is to lead by example. By implanting sustainable business practices that offer social, environmental and financial benefits, companies can demonstrate their positive impact in all aspects of the triple bottom line (TBL) and reap the benefits. Furthermore, creating a workplace environment that is progressive and inclusive allows employers to adopt sustainable business practices with mindful intent.
Here are 3 key benefits ED&I can offer to sustainability efforts:
Implementing a sustainable business model in a globalised world requires a globalised workforce. That’s where diversity comes in. For companies to thrive in a business market that’s getting smaller and more competitive, they need to understand the various perspectives and views that exist in the world. Whether that’s through knowledge sharing with existing ED&I programs or from an external source, companies that improve their diversity efforts will remain competitive in a globalised world1. Organisations can also share their industry knowledge as a part of their sustainable business practice policy through training employees and offering internships to younger members of the community. In turn, this can increase the education level and quality of life in the local community2.
When it comes to implementing strategies, policies and processes for business sustainability, there needs to be a collaborative effort that takes into account the views of its customers, employees and suppliers. It’s also about understanding your workforce and utilising their strengths. For example, LGBT employees are more likely to support environmental initiatives (which can be attributed to similar goals when it comes to advocating social change)3. So, for a collaborative input on your business sustainability strategy, reach out to your workforce and to those who are passionate about your goals and ask for their opinion.
Diversity is the future. Millennials – our current and future leaders – want to work for innovative, agile and sustainable companies that care about the world and its employees4. Teams that are diverse:
- outperform their competitors;
- have a happier, more loyal workforce; and
- impact how a company is perceived both internally and externally.
Linking ED&I with sustainable business practices is not only socially sustainable, it’s a development that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
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- The Telegraph. The business benefits of promoting diversity and inclusion. Source article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/connect/better-business/business-sustainability/business-benefits-diversity-inclusion/
- Oxford Academic. Community development, social diversity, and the new metropolis. Source article: https://academic.oup.com/cdj/article-abstract/46/suppl_2/ii5/355443
- Grist. Why are LGBT candidates eco-friendly? Source article: https://grist.org/article/2011-01-13-why-are-gays-more-eco-friendly/
- Three Reasons Diversity is Important in Driving Sustainability. Source article: https://sustainablebrands.com/read/press-release/three-reasons-diversity-is-important-in-driving-sustainability-1