Diversity and Inclusion- Building a Socially Accountable Brand09 Nov 2020

Uttama Pandit Head of Operations

'Diversity and Inclusion,’ is not synonymous. Diversity does not always necessarily lead to inclusion, in fact, it could also lead to exclusion if the ‘And’ is just viewed as mere conjunction and not as a bond to the two fundamental atoms.

To understand Diversity and Inclusion it is important to take into account the state of affairs - the social, cultural, and political structure. Recently, the world has been mired in a steady stream of racial protests which started in the United States of America. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has become the microcosm of all inequities that exist in and around us – however closeted. The gut-wrenching stories that continue to emerge from the #MeToo movement and even the Climate Change movement have exposed layers of systematic prejudices. Although unnerving, these issues encouraged uncomfortable discussions- discussions on Diversity and Inclusion.

At the heart of it Diversity and Inclusion address the elephant in the room, it recognises the privileges of one, unwrapping the biases of the other. No wonder we are scared to open this pandora’s box. But on the other side, D&I has a definite positive impact on companies big and small. Research shows that a diverse workplace leads to higher levels of employee engagement, better performance, and higher profit. However, to me, D&I goes beyond the sub-strata of business. It is more innate and defines the outlook of the organization. Based on the principles of D&I a company can not only drive the ‘social accountability quotient,’ but also stimulate change beyond the political discourse.

Like any other decision that an organization makes, there is no denying that only those decisions that have a calculable ROI (Return on Investment) are the ones that are eventually implemented. Therefore, in the past, even discussion of diversity and inclusion became non-existent in the grander scheme of things. Recent research done by McKinsey found a significant correlation between a diverse workplace and better financial performance. People from varied walks of life bring to the workplace a wide range of perspectives that can offer intellectual capital to the companies they work for. This intellectual capital can foster ‘out-of the-box’ thinking, leading to higher creativity; thereby creating space for a better end-product and eventually more success in the company’s field of work.

Research has also shown that consumers and other stakeholders want to take social good or what is commonly called Corporate Social Responsibility, from being just a marketing strategy to be a necessity, with the rise of social awareness. While we may look at our external stakeholders just as mere consumers, the onus of comprehending the impact of their ‘consumption’ in a world that often overlooks diversity and inclusivity is upon the company. It is this cognizance of the status-quo and the subsequent action on it, that makes for a powerful brand image. The mark of a successful brand is one that is built inside-out. Simply put, this means, inculcating a culture of social awareness within the company.

Fundamentally, both diversity and inclusion, as well as CSR, are about reaching out to the disenfranchised communities while bringing new market insights and establishing a collaborative solution to the problem. They both envision a community that strives for social inclusion that envisages economic benefits.

While talking about internal changes surrounding diversity and inclusion, the end resulting product and service often reflect your values, biases included. In the journey towards building an inclusive organization, establishing and comprehending the relationship that exists between internal processes and external image is vital. It is understanding the congruency between how the company as a whole and individual employees as a part operate, contribute, and eventually structure themselves in the world.