Why Diversity & Inclusion need to stay at the core of your CSR in crisis
- “We need to focus in on our core business right now.”
- “We have other more important things to focus on.”
- “No more diversity and inclusion activities for the next 90 days.”
These statements are being made by some companies in response to the Covid-19 crisis and whether they should be focusing on diversity and inclusion right now. If customers, employees and communities are important to your business, then it is always the right time to focus on Diversity & Inclusion. Why is it so important for companies to continue their focus on diversity, equity and inclusion at this time? Now, while the world is going through an unprecedented pandemic, it is more important than ever for companies to adhere to their espoused (and hopefully lived) values lest they be exposed as inauthentic for abandoning them. Moreover, companies that do not do so risk losing valuable goodwill, important resources and business, and hard-won trust from their employees, customers and communities if they fail to stay the D&I course.
Customers. Focusing in on the diversity of customers will allow companies to be more attuned to the specific needs of each customer during this time. What do customers who are caregivers need? Do customers who are caregivers of children need something different than our customers that are caregivers of elderly relatives? What can be helpful to customers who are veterans? Is there something more that can be done to assist customers who have disabilities? The differences in customers are not just empty differentiators, but instead, they are opportunities to provide the best service possible based upon these unique differences.
Employees. If companies have been on a steady path of nurturing inclusion and leveraging the diversity of their employee base, to stop now would be a big mistake. Not only would this be a setback to all of the company’s efforts and work in the D&I space, but employees will no longer trust the diversity and inclusion messages that are coming from leadership. When the opportunity arises, valued employees may entertain offers to go to a different employer that has stayed true to their commitment to D&I. For the benefit of employees, companies can double down on D&I by re-imagining the workplace to make it more flexible and accommodating to all employees, by giving employees opportunities to be creative, innovative and intrapreneurial during this pandemic, and by using this time to allow leaders to flex their inclusion and empathy muscles. Retrenching on D&I is not the answer, reinvigorating it is.
Communities. The Covid-19 pandemic has magnified some of the social and structural inequalities that already existed in our society and many of these inequalities are disproportionately impacting diverse segments of society – people of colour, elderly individuals, lower-wage earners. It will take a sustained and coordinated effort of diverse voices and perspectives from companies, nonprofits and governments to manage, mitigate and eventually eliminate these inequalities.
By doubling down on advancing diversity and inclusion within our customer bases, companies and communities, we will all be stronger, better and more prepared for what is on the side of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Article by Sheri Crosby Wheeler, VP, Corporate Social Responsibility, Mr. Cooper.