4 ways to maximize common goals of diversity and corporate responsibility teams

There has never been a better time for diversity and inclusion (D&I) and corporate responsibility (CR) teams to maximize their impact. Each function has proven beyond a doubt its business case, and each has won a place at the strategy sessions that define the future of business all over the world.

A natural next step is for those of us in these professions to focus on our common goals. My own company’s recent research has found that we share many of these, even some not previously recognized.

The two functions certainly have distinctions and independent legacies, but as each has become more integral and impactful, they share more mutual ambitions. Improving the lives of the disenfranchised, ameliorating the impacts of climate change locally and globally, better reflecting and elevating the quality of life in surrounding communities are a few of the many.

Given how much these functions already have in common, the question is no longer why work together, but how.

Our research identifies four approaches already at work in top companies that are being used to align the work of the D&I and CR functions. Most companies are using some combination of these, and they can work in many configurations.

  1. Organizational structure: At Warner Media, D&I and CR are under the same C-suite-level leader. A specialist in each field works with sub-brands to embed priorities into projects, such as promoting diverse representation in media and behind the camera. The specialists meet weekly to identify areas of collaboration.
  2. Communication and reporting: Micron Technology makes sure D&I reporting is included in the annual sustainability report, which helps align the two functions. The teams also share a communications staff, which helps the business as a whole understand how and where the functions align.
  3. Community engagement: At Gap, the functions are in the same department, and teams are encouraged to collaborate on shared projects such as promoting sustainability and women’s empowerment in the supply chain.
  4. Strategic roadmap: At Sodexo, my company created a Roadmap for a Better Tomorrow 2025 that is founded on the shared principles of D&I and CR. For instance, in North America, both functions report to the same person (full disclosure: that’s me). They meet for strategic planning sessions and share reports and communications. They are encouraged to collaborate and learn from each other. And every year, the priorities of both functions are reflected in our annual integrated report.

There is not a one-size-fits-all playbook for further integrating these two distinct and essential functions. Some of these tactics are adaptable elsewhere, others less so. The routes to working together have much to do with workplace culture, governance and business priorities.

But wherever there is will, there is a version that will work. The common ambitions of both D&I and CR will be closer in reach when we work together.

What tactics have you found to be beneficial? Read our recent research (PDF) about how businesses in the United States are creating alignment between D&I and corporate responsibility functions and share your opinion.