Workforce Diversity Disclosures Hit An All-Time High

23 03 2023

Image credit: August de Richelieu/Pexels

By Mary Mazzoni from • Reposted: March 23 2023

As companies make bolder commitments to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), stakeholders are looking for more information to back up their claims. Shareholder resolutions related to racial equity more than doubled at U.S. companies last year, many focused specifically on convincing companies to publicly disclose diversity data about their workforces. 

Likewise, the vast majority of the American public — 92 percent, according to 2022 polling from Just Capital — feel it’s important for companies to promote racial equity in the workplace. And they recognize data is an important tool to do it, with 76 percent of respondents to Just Capital’s survey agreeing that disclosing demographic data is an important step toward advancing racial equity.  

While some corporate commitments related to racial equity have failed to fully materialize, the area of diversity disclosures in particular is one where companies are stepping up in a big way, with record levels of best-practice disclosure across the world’s largest public firms. 

The state of corporate diversity disclosures

What’s often missed in conversations about diversity disclosures is that most large companies already track this information because they’re legally obligated to do so. All U.S. public companies with more than 100 employees are required to submit annual reports to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Department of Labor that detail workforce data, including breakdowns by race and ethnicity, sex, and job categories. 

These reports, known as EEO-1 reports, are kept confidential by government agencies unless companies choose to voluntarily disclose them — and more companies are going just that.

Nearly 75 percent of Russell 1,000 companies disclose some form of workforce diversity data, compared to 55 percent in 2021, according to tracking from Just Capital. Within that group, 34 percent of companies publicly disclosed their EEO-1 reports or similar intersectional data last year — a more than threefold increase from 11 percent a year earlier. 

“Over the past year, companies across the Russell 1,000 have made great strides toward improving disclosure of racial and ethnic workforce demographic data,” Just Capital’s director of research insights, Matthew Nestler, and his team wrote in the report. 

When Just Capital last gathered disclosure data in September 2021, nearly half of all Russell 1,000 companies made no diversity disclosures at all. By September of last year, that number had fallen to 28 percent, as more than 150 companies opted to newly disclose their diversity data.

companies making diversity disclosures about their workforce has increased rapidly since 2021
(Click here to enlarge)

Importantly, many of these companies are skipping over the less granular disclosures, such as data about overall “non-white” or “minority” employees without racial and ethnic categories or job title breakdowns, and going right for publication of their EEO-1 reports.

Given increased stakeholder interest, it’s no surprise that companies taking the lead on diversity disclosures are reaping the benefits: Companies that published their EEO-1 or similar intersectional data outperformed those that didn’t by 7.9 percent over the trailing one-year period ending in 2022, according to a companion analysis from Just Capital. 

“Publicly disclosing demographic data represents a critical initial step for companies looking to build more diverse workforces, as well as stronger returns,” Nestler and his team wrote in the report. “It holds corporate leaders to account on their DEI goals and signals commitment to advancing racial equity.”

The bottom line

This type of rapid change indicates that advocacy from investors and consumers is working: Business leaders are hearing their stakeholders loud at clear, at least within the context of diversity disclosures. And even as anti-woke crusaders erroneously blame DEI “distractions” for everything from the Ohio train derailment to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, companies don’t appear to be backing down

“The story the report tells may not be a perfect one, but disclosure is a crucial first step in holding companies accountable to change,” Nestler and his team concluded. “From there, to ensure lasting progress on DEI, corporate leaders must ultimately go beyond demographic disclosure and measure and disclose the outcomes of their DEI efforts, including whether C-Suite compensation is tied to DEI-related progress, what resources are directed toward DEI efforts, how they drive impact in local communities, and more.” 

Just Capital works to incentivize corporate behavior change on DEI issues through accountability initiatives like the Corporate Racial Equity Tracker and actionable guidance like the CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity. Other resources such as the business-led coalition CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, and its Actions Database of more than 1,900 insights, are also at hand to guide business leaders as they look to advance DEI within their workforces. 

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Brands Have Grown Silent on Police Violence: How Can They Do Better?

17 03 2023

Image credit: Clay Banks/Unsplash

By Mary Mazzoni from • Reposted: March 17, 2021

Despite increased attention on the issue — and the rollout of piecemeal reform policies in some cities — data indicates that police violence in the U.S. is actually getting worse.

The Washington Post’s real-time database has recorded more fatal police shootings every year since it launched in 2015, with 2022 being the deadliest to date. Communities of color, particularly Black communities, continue to be disproportionately affected. Already this year, U.S. police have shot and killed 195 people, according to the database. Many, including the killings of Tyre Nichols, Keenan Anderson, Anthony Lowe Jr. and Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán, were highly publicized. Yet most of the brands that proclaimed to “stand with” Black communities following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 were largely nowhere to be seen. 

So, why have brands gone silent on the issue of police violence, and how can they do better? TriplePundit connected with leaders in sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to get a better understanding. 

The hard work is just beginning 

Like the Black Lives Matter movement itself, the corporate pledges made after Floyd’s murder were about much more than police violence. Companies committed billions of dollars in funding to tackle systemic inequities across society and the economy. Some succeeded in creating measurable progress — including the push to get more Black-owned brands on store shelves and devote more mainstream advertising spend to Black-owned media companies. 

But by and large, many of these initially outspoken brands have failed to follow through. “It’s easy for everyone to jump on the bandwagon,” Emerald-Jane “EJ” Hunter, founder of the DEI-focused integrated marketing firm myWHY Agency, said of corporate stands in favor of racial equity. “But it’s hard work and often calls for financial investment for companies to actually do the work, and do it well.”

Particularly during uncertain economic times, programming that is viewed as “nice-to-have” or unrelated to the business is always at risk of being cut. And unfortunately too many brands still view their racial equity work this way

“Many brands aren’t willing to part with the investment so take the lazy route by making a statement and claims and hope, just like many things, followers and consumers will forget over time what they said they would do,” Hunter told us. “The commitment simply isn’t there to do what it takes to make the shift and change, and therein lies the problem: Until companies make the investment and give it the time that it takes, we’ll never see change.”

The benefits of going bold: How can leaders convince their bosses it’s worth the risk? 

“The issue of police violence has also become so politically charged, it’s safer for brands to not go ‘too hard’ on this stance for fear of being cancelled,” Hunter said. While brands may be more keen to back off given the “anti-woke” political climate, consumer expectations — particularly among younger demographics — are only growing

“Remaining quiet when police brutality continues to disproportionately impact communities of color is no longer an option,” said Alix Lebec, founder and CEO of Lebec Consulting, which specializes in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and impact investing. “Eighty-two percent of millennial consumers expect corporations to align with their social and environmental values — and to stand up for key societal issues in real time.” 

Although it may seem safer to stay silent, brands that go bold — and back it up — stand to see real benefits. “Ben & Jerry’s is one of the best examples of a company and brand that immediately spoke up after George Floyd’s murder caused by inhumane police brutality in an authentic manner,” Lebec said. “From its voiceconsumer productsdonations and stance on public policy, Ben & Jerry’s took action. This is a brand that leads with empathy and purpose.” 

The brand continues to work with grassroots racial empowerment and civil rights organizations like the Advancement ProjectClose the Workhouse Coalition and the Power U Center for Social Change. “Taking bold positions on political topics has often helped the ice cream brand,” Hunter added, citing a 2020 analysis from YouGov which found customer affinity scores double after Ben & Jerry’s publicly condemned white supremacy and police violence. “The brand’s activism isn’t just the right thing to do. It also can help, in all honesty, your bottom line.”

Still, what’s a leader to do if their company remains hesitant? “One thing a business leader can tell their boss when they receive pushback is to look at the generations to follow and what matters to them. If their company wants to be around for years to come, they’ll soon be challenged by Gen Z and millennials for whom why businesses exist matters more than what they do,” Hunter said. “You won’t exist for much longer without aligning with a cause or issue or a why that goes beyond dollars and cents.”

“It doesn’t have to be specifically police brutality,” she added, “but should that be the cause, then it’s worth knowing that advocacy work equals longevity for a brand. It also takes time to become the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, so start now, be intentional, and practice what you preach internally and externally.”

Ready to take action to curb police violence and promote equity? Here’s how to start

Hunter highly recommends connecting with outside experts or enlisting an agency to help you get better about acting and communicating around issues like police violence and equity more broadly.

“This isn’t the time to risk making mistakes with a DIY approach. You’re in this boat because if you had known better, you would’ve done better,” she told us. “Nothing is worse than getting it wrong. Let the experts guide you so you do it right.” 

For most brands, the first step in “getting it right” will start internally, with building inclusivity in operations, hiring and promotion practices, and supply chains. “It begins at home, so ensure you’re all squared away internally before making external statements that become void of truth once you’re called out on your internal practices,” Hunter advised. 

Lebec agreed. “In addition to speaking up, companies need to truly live the values they espouse,” she said. “This includes engaging in catalytic and trust-based philanthropy, impact investing and public-private partnership, supporting public policies that value equality and sustainability, and showing up for local communities.”

If brand leadership has money to invest, the way they choose to do it also makes a big difference — both in terms of maximizing impact and supporting changemakers of color who are often overlooked. “Donate and invest in local, minority-owned businesses and nonprofitsthat have a strong track record with local communities, are typically underfunded, and have the potential to create more thriving local economies,” Lebec told us.

“Corporations can also leverage their philanthropy in ways that will attract other forms of financing to the table — such as impact investment capital — and financially support organizations that are really making a difference here in the U.S. and across developing and emerging markets,” she said. “Investing directly from corporate balance sheets, for instance, could unlock billions to trillion dollars of capital for economic and social equality.”

Don’t have money? Lend your voice. “Support public policies that are leveling the playing field for underrepresented business owners and entrepreneurs and are pro-equality and sustainability,” she advised. 

However they do it, brands would be wise to recognize the urgency of getting started. “In 2023, companies need to be vulnerable, action-oriented, timely, creative and authentic — or risk losing relevancy and loyalty,” Lebec said. 

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Forbes: Purpose is the next digital

16 03 2023

The Stakeholder Model of Purpose. Graphic: CONSPIRACY OF LOVE

The Stakeholder Model Of Purpose: How Cause Marketing, CSR, Sustainability, DEI And ESG Can Operate Harmoniously In This New Age Of Purpose. By Afdhel Aziz, Contributor, Co-Founder, Conspiracy Of Love, And Good Is The New Cool via Forbes. Reposted: March 16, 2023

One of the biggest questions in the global movement of business as a force for good is how the different disciplines of CSR, ESG, sustainability, cause marketing, and diversity and inclusion all fit with the idea of Purpose.

I propose this simple model to show how they can all work in harmony.

Purpose is the Next Digital

A good analogy to start with comes from the quote ‘Purpose is the next Digital’ by Max Lenderman. In the same way that businesses had to transform themselves in every aspect (from the supply chains to their marketing) with the arrival of digital technology, the same evolution is happening with the advent of Purpose.

We see the emergence of the term ‘Purpose’ – the overarching umbrella term now increasingly being used to describe the idea of business as a force for good – in much the same way as we see the term ‘Digital.’ Just as ‘Digital’ now covers a myriad of different channels and technologies (from CRM, to supply chain management, to social media), so too does Purpose now encompass a wide range of different disciplines that preceded it (like CSR, ESG, DEI, etc).

Moving from Shareholder to Stakeholder Capitalism

The evolution of business we are seeing has also often been described as a move away from purely Shareholder-driven capitalism (where only the needs of investors were taken into account) towards a more Stakeholder-driven model (where the needs of multiple stakeholders including employees, consumers, investors, communities and the planet are also considered).

As such, mapping different manifestations of Purpose against these stakeholder groups provides a simple way to understand how they can all work in harmony, towards the higher order purpose.

Purpose at the core: The higher order reason for a company’s existence that inspires action to profitably solve the problems of the world. This exists as the core organizing principle of a truly Purpose-driven company, acting as a North Star around which to align all of the following.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity (DEI) is an Employee-focused manifestation of Purpose, ensuring that there are systems and processes in place in order to ensure a culture of belonging and opportunity, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disability or neurodiversity. Inclusion should be baked into every aspect of the employee experience from recruitment to retention to Governance. If done right, it can not only lead to employee motivation and engagement but also innovation that leads to inclusive growth, through identifying new opportunities that less diverse cultures cannot envision.

Of course, DEI is only one manifestation of Purpose as it pertains to employees: there are so many more avenues (from inspiring personal purpose, to volunteering, giving, innovation and more generally, building it into the talent value proposition (TVP) and activating it at every stage from recruitment to onboarding to retention and career planning.

Cause marketing (or Purpose-driven marketing) is the legacy term for the manifestation of Purpose towards Consumers. This has now blossomed into many forms beyond its original basic models of the past.

This could take the form of initiatives that engage consumers via simply buying the product (eg TOM’s famous 1 for 1 model or Product (Red) which helped raise money for HIV/AIDS prevention.

At retail, this could manifest in a portion of revenue from products going to good causes (for instance, see Chips Ahoy raising money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America).

Or indeed in digital or physical activations (for instance, Airbnb’s Open Homes initiative which invited hosts to donate their homes to refugees and victims of natural disasters).

Corporate Social Responsibility (or CSR) is the manifestation of Purpose towards the Communities a company serves – whether they be geographically contextual (like helping communities in the cities the company is based in) or issue focused (like The North Face funding non-profits that help make the outdoors more diverse via their Explore Fund grant).

This has always been a form of corporate philanthropy that a company has practiced in a more ‘defensive’ mode to deflect criticism of them not being a good corporate citizen. But in recent years, progressive companies have seen the benefit of treating CSR in a more enlightened way. By representing the voice of community to the company, and building deep relationships with non-profits and other partners, it can become a vital force helping drive authenticity, innovation and growth.

Sustainability is the manifestation of Purpose towards the Planet, pertaining to everything from how a company utilizes resources efficiently (like reducing their carbon footprint, stripping plastic out of their supply chain or managing waste) to how it obtains the resources (eg agricultural or mineral) with an ethical supply chain that is respectful not only to the Earth but the people who help them obtain it (eg farmers)

ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) is the manifestation of all of the above in a codified way towards Investors and Shareholders, in a transparent and measurable way, in a way that allows for comparison between companies. Despite attempts to politicize and demonize it, when done correctly it can become a useful tool to help articulate Commitments the company is making in service of environmental and social goals (people and planet) in an accountable and tangible way.

The key to success in this new world of Purpose is orchestration. When all these disparate disciplines are re-aligned around a powerful and inspiring Purpose, the effect is so much stronger than if they were focused on a myriad of different objectives and issues. They become parts of an orchestra playing a harmonious single theme rather than instruments operating on a discordant solo basis.

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A New Year and New Approach to DEI at Agencies

7 02 2023

By Ashish Prashar from • Reposted: February 7, 2023

We in the advertising industry talk a lot about equity and inclusion. We design a lovely showroom that celebrates our apparent commitment to diversity in all its forms. Sadly, this is all superficial. Peel back the curtain and we see … nothing. We continue to ignore blatant racism and injustice and fail to take even the most basic steps that can drive real change.

For all the pledges we saw from agencies in 2020 to finally address systemic racism, over two years later we’ve seen little real action. Even while they complain of a “war for talent,” agencies aren’t doing enough to change how they recruit and promote talent and are struggling to make a meaningful cultural impact.

Racism and exclusion persist in the workplace, with higher turnover rates and lower promotion rates among people of color. For years, we’ve known there’s a clear business case for prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion at work beyond lip service. A McKinsey study found that the most diverse companies were 36 percent more profitable in 2019 than their least diverse counterparts.

While companies may sometimes have good intentions in coming forward with commitments after a big cultural moment, the impact falls short every time. After George Floyd’s death in 2020, company after company promised to recruit and retain more diverse talent and pledged to put cash toward DEI. But there was little accountability. Companies often don’t report their demographics, and it’s even more rare that they disclose information about spending.

A number of agencies are recruiting more diverse talent, and some are willing to share their data, with varying degrees of detail and frequency, but there is a lot more work to be done — particularly when it comes to instigating change at the top. This is where agencies can move beyond anti-bias and anti-racism training to provide things like committed executive sponsorship and mentorship of young diverse talent.

It can be difficult to hold organizations accountable when it comes to all aspects of DEI, particularly when looking beyond financial commitments and assessing what data is important when considering DEI progress.

We need to think bigger If we’re going to make meaningful change. The best DEI strategies target all parts of companies, and that starts by going beyond recruiting. Recruiting a diverse workforce is one part of DEI, but it should be viewed as a first step, not a comprehensive solution. It takes holding leaders accountable for change, something agencies haven’t seemed willing to take on. This may include difficult decisions around current leadership and has to encompass taking the impact on talent and agency culture into account when filling new leadership roles. Managers who create or enable a workplace environment that makes people of color uncomfortable should never be shoo-ins for new leadership roles.

It also means asking questions about who we work with, the kind of work we want to create, and the stories we want to share with the world. Companies often make the biggest difference when they change something within their spheres of influence. In this industry, our sphere of influence is narrative.

The creative industry has served as an arbiter of ideas and a reflection of a society’s failing or burgeoning health. Creatives have had a powerful hand in building either massive propaganda machines or culture-changing art and movements. The question about which side we’ll fall in this dichotomy can be answered by choosing to be conscious of our resources and of our responsibilities.

It is our responsibility in the creative industry to question what ideas and values we are disseminating, what stereotypes or biases we are introducing, and to whom we are giving platforms through our work. But it’s not enough just to avoid making the mistakes of the past. This industry has a responsibility to create new narratives that help tear down the biases and stereotypes it has previously helped perpetuate.

If agencies really want to make a difference in connecting with people of color, they can start by working on the issues and causes that impact and shape our lives. There is no shortage of partners in need of help addressing issues like justice reform, education and healthcare equity. Find out who you can work with to make an impact, and get to work. Talent (and prospective talent) will notice.

Make 2023 the year that your agency was truly an ally in the fight for diversity.

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