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The Importance of Creating a Diverse Sustainability Team

The SSC Team March 6, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We talk a lot about diversity these days, but how can we truly make it a priority in our workplaces? Sustainability is about striving for a better world and a better world is an inclusive one. So whether you are a start up or a Fortune 500 company you need to strive to build a diverse company. Here’s the thing — this is not just good for your team, it’s good for your bottom line.

 

Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 1,700 companies from eight countries and found that there was a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes in all countries examined. Also those innovative companies unsurprisingly turned out to be more profitable, too.

 

In her 2016 piece, The Challenges of Diversity in Sustainability Leadership, Anya Khalamayzer highlighted the need for green-focused businesses and nonprofits to rethink they way they build diversity in leadership positions. As Khalamayzer points out the goal of environmental stewardship is preserving a diversity of ecosystems, cultures and natural resources. So it only makes sense that organizations pledging to protect the planet’s resources should reflect the diversity needed to solve the world’s big, interconnected problems.

 

“We need diversity to happen at all levels of environmental efforts, starting with the hiring process," said Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0, an organization advancing racial diversity across mainstream environmental foundations and government agencies.

 

Leela Srinivasan, Chief Marketing Officer at Lever, has six ideas that can help yield results when it comes to fostering diversity in your workplace. First you have to get real about how diverse and inclusive your company is. Look, you can recruit all the diverse talent you want, but if they don’t feel comfortable in the office environment it isn’t going to work out. Make sure you create conditions where employees from all backgrounds can feel empowered to do their best work.

 

To really get started in this process you need to objectively analyze your current situation — how diverse do you consider the last five individuals promoted in terms of gender, ethnicity and background? Ask the same question of your last five hires. If there haven’t been many recent promotions or new team members added to your organization consider the last raises, bonuses or rewards that were distributed. Then consider the last five people who left your organization — is there any commonality in their background? Any patterns that emerge when you evaluate these questions can provide you with a starting point and areas where you need to prioritize your focus.

 

Next make sure your team interviews people consistently and objectively. Here’s the thing, even though hiring is really important for success, most companies seem to spend little time, effort or resources to train employees about making objective hiring decisions. And here’s the thing, whether we want to admit it or not, each of us has some bias about the world around us. Implementing some thoughtful guidelines can help to minimize the impact of that bias, or at least make us more aware of it. We all know that you want people to join your team who feel like a good fit, but if you constantly select people “just like us” your workplace could become a monoculture and your creativity and ability to succeed will be stifled. So utilize an application tracking system, a standard questionnaire and/or interview kits to help candidates be evaluated in a consistent way.

 

Does the world outside of your office understand your commitment to a diverse team? If you have people on your staff who may consider themselves to be in the minority you should ask if they are comfortable being featured in a company blog or to share their positive feelings about working for your company on sites like LinkedIn or Medium.  If this isn’t an option yet, demonstrate your commitment to the community — attend local meetings that address diversity issues or arrange volunteer opportunities that will expose your team to a more diverse population. If your website includes people — one your team or clients — make sure that you highlight individuals who represent other groups.

 

Everyone has to participate. There are different ways you can do this, but your office environment will not be more diverse unless your team is onboard and open. You can engage in company-wide discussions to help foster inclusion and celebrate differences. You can create employee resource groups to provide networking and social opportunities to underrepresented groups, however you have to be careful that the dialogue remains open and doesn’t cause important conversations to be help behind closed doors. The end goal is that the most successful inclusion activities will foster a mutual sense of belonging amongst everyone — whether they are in the majority or minority. And remember, it isn’t just about special activities. You need to make sure that the everyday experience is inclusive. Here is Buffer’s guide to inclusive language for startups and tech companies, take a look and think about the language utilized in your company each day.

 

Here’s the thing, you may have to be proactive in building your diverse team. If you get 25 applications for a position and every one comes from a white millennial male, you may want to put in a little more work to garner a more diverse slate of potential candidates. However as you start approaching individuals you think may be a good fit, remember you are looking for a diverse AND talented team. Do not approach a potential candidate merely because they would increase the diversity at your company.

 

Most importantly? Don’t wait! The early you implement these strategies into your hiring process, the more likely you are to garner and maintain a diverse team. This is a commitment for the long term so get to it! There is no time like the present.

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