America’s Best Business Strategy

AMERICA’S  BEST BUSINESS STRATEGY: DEI

The Parable of RMI:

First, a little background…The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) was founded in 1982 as a 501c-3 non-profit aimed to improve America’s energy practices. 

RMI’s mission has met with great success; it operates with a surplus and has an annual budget of $120 million with over 500 employees. Their promotional information and website talks a lot about decarbonization, cutting greenhouse gasses and, most importantly, arguing the business case for why decarbonizing the planet is good for business. What’s missing from RMI’s description or website is any mention of a philosophy or approach using the word “sustainability.”

I don’t claim to understand or know why RMI doesn’t talk about sustainability, ever. But I do know this: “sustainability” is a trigger word for protectors of the status quo, be they utility operators, oil companies, chemical companies, carpet manufacturers or mega-corporations whose business models are powered by, or reliant on, fossil fuel.

I think there is something we can learn from RMI’s example in how to deal with and overcome resistance. 

What would happen if we changed the narrative about why DEI is important to focus solely on arguing and articulating its business case?

Given what we DEI (or JEDI, or DEIBA&J, or whatever) practitioners have collectively learned over the past 10+ years, it’s clear that the moral argument for DEI compels and motivates many of us, but to others it reeks of moral superiority and judgment, as if we want them to feel shamed and less-than.

I am not suggesting we scrub our language in order to collude with people’s fragility. We have all learned that words like “privilege” especially when coupled with “white” are trigger words that spark defensiveness and resistance. Many of us still use them – with caution – because we know the risk of watering down reality for learners. But it feels like we could be doing more to articulate the value of DEI as a business differentiator?

What is our ultimate objective? To reach consensus about what equity means so that everyone agrees? Or, to create equity for those who suffer the most from being treated inequitably? I understand the desire to create consensus, but it takes time. How much more trauma and discrimination should members of oppressed, under represented, or minoritized groups have to withstand until we all agree?

Let’s shift the narrative and appeal to each individual’s self-interest: DEI&B is a proven strategy to generate more profit, greater competitive advantage and more fulfilling workplaces. Who doesn’t want that?

Well, apparently Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida doesn’t, nor do any of the state legislatures who are considering  banning DEI in schools or state funded businesses. Maybe we should ask the Governor or legislators in those states to share the strategies they plan on implementing that will create as many positive outcomes as executing a DEI strategy.

The research on DEI is in, folks, and here are a few of the things it shows:

  1. DEI increases talent diversification:

    It creates an environment of inclusion and respect that opens doors for more diverse candidates to be considered in hiring and promotion decisions. Increased talent diversification has positive implications on the performance of the company. Diverse teams and organizations lead to creative problem-solving and better problem identification and prevent groupthink.

  2. DEI makes people want to stay.

    A diverse workplace is attractive to potential employees and can increase employee retention. Studies have shown that 60 percent of employees ranked DEI as a top factor when considering employers, and 57 percent of employees said they stayed with their employer because they felt the company had a strong commitment to DEI.

  3. DEI leads to better results and more profit:

    Research shows that companies with a diverse and equitable work culture, those who continually work to implement DEI initiatives, tend to outperform their counterparts in terms of financial performance. Moreover, companies with a greater number of women and members of one or more racial or ethnic minority groups in leadership roles are likely to have greater financial returns.

  4. DEI leads to greater innovation.

    It creates a safe space for employees to be creative, think outside of the box, and drive process changes, leading to increased innovation. DEI can also open up new markets for the company as embracing diversity can give the company access to new talent and perspectives, allowing for more connection to the experiences and insights of customers and the communities served by the company.

For inclusion to really take root in an organization, everyone has to identify their own self-interest in why they should support it. Let’s contain our moral outrage and not get sucked into defending ludicrous claims that “wokeness” and DEI causes banks to fail.  Instead, let’s engage in thoughtful but persuasive conversations with skeptics about how we can all live better lives, make more money, and have more surety that we are leaving our kids a planet that is in better shape than when our parents left it to us.

This article was produced in part by AI.

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