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4 things corporate responsibility teams should ask diversity counterparts, and vice versa

Some guiding questions — and major opportunities.

Many of us are lucky in our professions in that we find our area of focus endlessly fascinating. I know from personal experience that in the fields of diversity and inclusion (D&I) and corporate responsibility (CR) there is always more to do and explore, more experts to meet and best practices to study. But there is often another area ripe for learning that we forget about. It’s closer than we think. Perhaps, right down the office hall.

When it comes to D&I and CR, we can get so caught up in the day-to-day necessities of leading change, we forget how much we can learn from each other.

My team recently examined the intersections between these two fields and, though there are definite distinctions, there are many existing and emerging commonalities.

At their core, professionals in both realms rely on creating a strategic vision through a strong business case and on embedding new business practices within company operations. Think of all the functional similarities: 

  • Both must cultivate leadership support and engagement
  • Both rely on metrics and analytics to drive progress
  • Both strive to create systemic and cultural change
  • Both involve managing external partnerships
  • Both use storytelling to create a compelling message

With so much in common, it makes sense to look to each other for guidance. But practitioners in both fields have very full plates and doing so is often not a top priority.

We should make it one.

When it comes to D&I and CR, we can get so caught up in the day-to-day necessities of leading change, we forget how much we can learn from each other.
When these two groups collaborate, the benefits to the business, the community and the professions themselves are significant and learning from each other doesn’t have to be complicated. Our recent review of the evolving D&I and CR fields in the United States points to some opportunities to learn from each other.

Do you work in D&I? Think about asking a CR peer one these three questions:

  1. How are you measuring and reporting progress?
  2. How are you engaging other parts of the organization such as supply chain and marketing in your efforts? What initiatives are you working on together?
  3. What kinds of external partners are you working with, what projects are you doing together and what have been the results?
  4. How are you addressing and incorporating diversity in your team and in your initiatives?

Do you work in CR? Think about asking a D&I peer these three questions:

  1. Do you have any tips for engaging employees in support of your company’s goals? How do you engage different parts of the organization? What does your global governance structure look like? How are you bringing people together and sharing information?   
  2. What do you see as the drivers of change and big challenges in meeting your goals and how have you navigated these?
  3. What are you doing to engage and educate senior leaders in the organization?
  4. How are you addressing corporate responsibility and sustainability in your initiatives?

There are clear areas where we can create common benefits by learning from each other. I've lumped them into three primary categories.

1. Talent

One expert we interviewed said that the D&I and CR teams intersect most obviously when it comes to helping businesses attract, engage and retain talent.

How can we create a sense of belonging and increase employee engagement to expand our impact? Let’s ask each other.

2. Supply chain

In a marketplace where businesses are held accountable for not just the efficiency but also the responsible practices of their supply chains, D&I and CR are crucial voices in the conversation.

Business leaders told our researchers that D&I professionals have been instrumental in helping them identify a broad range of small and diverse businesses that can fuel them with products as well as innovations. Meanwhile, CR has been an important partner in ensuring transparency, sustainability and mitigating risk.  

CR and D&I professionals have tremendous knowledge to share with each other about building innovative supplier networks and monitoring practices in the supply chain.

3. Community

Here is where the true test of impact lies: in the community. Separately and together, D&I and CR work to support disenfranchised communities through job growth, recruiting, supply management, philanthropy, volunteerism and ameliorating environmental impact.

Both functions have become adept at building bridges in the community and between those communities and the business. They are usually different bridges, however. Some across continents and some right next door. Let’s ask about how each one of us found our partner stakeholders and our common ground.

This is not to say that professionals in either function are novices in these areas. It’s more that each function has developed expertise that may provide insights to their colleagues. The point is to recognize each other as in-house experts who are well-positioned to help us make a bigger and better impact. It never hurts to ask.

What would you ask? What would you share? Read our findings (PDF) about the common opportunities and skills shared by D&I and CR professionals and share your opinion.

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