Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is good for people and business. Companies should promote strong diversity, equity and inclusion policies and practices in the workplace throughout their operations and supply chains. A robust EDI strategy should transcend mere legal compliance, adopting an intersectional approach. This approach not only ensures adherence to regulations but also adds substantial value to the organisation. Promoting wellbeing and equity of outcomes, has a profound impact on all employees, fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace environment.
The UN Global Compact UK Network workstream on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion aims to support businesses in addressing inequalities and promoting inclusive and diverse workplaces, as well as in fulfilling SDG 1 no poverty, SDG 3 good health and well-being, SDG 5 gender equality, SDG 8 decent work and economic growth and SDG 10 reduced inequalities.
One in six people experience discrimination globally, rooted in factors such as gender, ethnicity, disabilities, colour, language, and/or socio-economic characteristics. Inequality threatens long-term social and economic development, jeopardizes social cohesion, harms poverty reduction, and causes disparities in opportunities and outcomes, impeding economic efficiency. Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion throughout business operations is a vital step in addressing inequalities and eliminating discrimination worldwide.
Non-discrimination is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 1 articulates the inalienable and inherent rights that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Article 2 provides that “no one shall be discriminated against in the enjoyment of the rights laid down in the Declaration on the grounds of "race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
The Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact reiterate these universal rights and aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, drive the contribution companies can make toward the enjoyment of human rights, including the right to equality and non-discrimination:
- Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights
- Principle 6: Businesses should uphold the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
Furthermore, the Equality Act 2010 provides legal protection for nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
DEI in the workplace:
Fostering and implementing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in the workplace is a crucial element of effective people management. This entails cultivating work environments and cultures that prioritise safety and a genuine sense of belonging for every individual. The goal is to empower each person to realise their full potential.
According to Principle 6 of the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, discrimination in employment and occupation refers to any distinction, exclusion or preference which has the effect of placing certain individuals in a position of exclusion or disadvantage in the labour market or the workplace because of their race, colour, religion, sex, disability, political opinion, national extraction, social origin or any other attribute which bears no relation to the job to be performed.
What is DEI?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are different but complementary concepts. A business requires to implement all three aspects to reap the full benefits of a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce contributing a range of skills, knowledge, and experience.
Diversity often focuses on quantity: The representation of different groups in an enterprise. Business efforts to drive diversity aim to ensure that people from a range of groups experience equality of opportunity and treatment in access to employment, development, promotion and pay. Diversity refers not only to similarities and differences linked to personal characteristics such as age, disability, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, and people living with HIV but also similarities and differences such as values, workstyles, caring responsibilities, hierarchical levels, and work roles. Each person has multiple groups they identify with which can change over time, potentially influencing and shifting their employment opportunities and outcomes.
While diversity tends to focus on quantity, equity and inclusion are focused on quality.
Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, that historically, some groups of people have experienced discrimination and that reaching equal outcomes will not be achieved by treating everyone the same. Equality and reaching equal outcomes require the allocation of resources and opportunities according to circumstance and need.
Inclusion is relational, it is about the experience of individuals and groups in the workplace. A person’s feeling of inclusion at work is related to their personal characteristics, their own behaviour and that of others and the environment they are in. Full inclusion happens when individuals experience a balance between belonging with others at work - feeling they are part of the whole enterprise – as well as being seen, understood, and valued as an individual, with a unique identity, skills, and experience.