Sustainability has become a buzzword in recent years because of its imperative in today’s world as well as potential benefits to businesses. Many organisations have attached great importance to promotion of sustainability practices as a way of achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) and documenting their corporate social responsibility. Besides orthodox avenues such as eco-friendly actions or sustainability policies, businesses could also take into consideration a novel approach to SDGs – embracing diversity and inclusion and doing good for the local community. Diversity and inclusion are likely to be a great catalyst for attainment of at least 4 SDGs.
Authors: Huy To & Jaana Häkli
Diversity and inclusion secure good health and well-being
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. (United Nations 2021, 30)
A diverse workplace has become the current vogue in professional contexts, meaning this kind of workplace is very much preferred by numerous people regardless of their employment status. Specifically concerning those who are already working, research has proven that employees today want to bring their talents to a workplace with a diverse workforce. Approximately 95% of the respondents have shown their interest in working in a work environment where they can meet people of diverse backgrounds (To 2021, 37). When people could work in a place which shows the values that they are holding such as diversity, their experiences at work become more meaningful, thus enhancing work-life balance.
What is more, inclusion at work is the degree to which members of an organisation feel involved and included in the organisation (Starr-Glass 2017, 100). Good implementation of inclusion ensures that everyone who represent multiple differences are enabled to take part, contribute, have a say, and feel that they are connected without subsuming individual authenticity and uniqueness. In this regard, inclusion affects hugely employee engagement and participation. That the level of employee engagement and participation is high means they have ample opportunity to make a difference and their voice is heard. This ensures employees’ good health and well-being at work as they feel they are important and valued.
Diversity and inclusion support gender equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. (United Nations 2021, 36)
Diversity in a workplace setting refers to a mixture of people who are of different backgrounds such as, but not limited to, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, ethnics, race, religion, family status, and economic and geographical background. Inclusion recognises the various ways individuals are different and allows multiple dimensions of diversity to be taken into account and addressed. (Ferdman 2014, 11-12.) Hence, a diverse and inclusive workplace contributes to gender equality. Gender equality is a common practice in many industries in Finland but still there are industries such as technology which is clearly male dominated. Similarly, all-women-founded start-up companies raised just 0.7% of investment in the Nordics, hence a lot of work remains to be done on this in the future (Unconventional Ventures 2021).
Diversity and inclusion lead to decent work and economic growth
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. (United Nations 2021, 42)
Diversity could stimulate creativity and innovation thanks to various skills, know-how, ideas, and perspectives brought to the organisation by people of different backgrounds. This plurality is likely to enhance productivity as well. Additionally, inclusion makes employees feel valued and gives them a sense of belonging, which motivates them to work better towards common goals. Therefore, diversity and inclusion are instrumental in decent work. However, according to latest research results, many employees feel that companies are not implementing their diversity and inclusion activities enough (To 2021, 44). This urges companies to focus more on their diversity and inclusion to contribute to decent work.
From the customer’s perspectives, a diverse and inclusive workforce could help make sure that the services and products provided by the organisation are mindful and respectful of their customers’ needs and perhaps their customer’s clients in a broader sense. If the workplace is reflective of the organisation’s customer segments and is willing to and can use that similarity to enhance offerings, the output is more likely to go aligned with endless customer needs. Customer satisfaction could then be increased. (O’Donovan 2017, 20.) When customers are happy, they are more loyal to the brand and even willing to pay more. Customer retention and loyalty play a crucial role in economic growth of businesses.
Diversity and inclusion contribute to reduced inequalities
Reduce inequality within and among countries. (United Nations 2021, 46)
On the one hand, inclusion expedites diversity work that is aimed at eliminating unfavourable demeanours such as oppression, discrimination, or biases. On the other hand, inclusion also promotes a positive vision of what must be done to remove such negativity. In the context of equality and empowerment, an inclusion lens highlights multiplicity and integration of individuals rather than focus on one identity at a time. This encourages people to acknowledge and respect group-based differences whilst simultaneously treating every individual as unique and appreciating that every identity group incorporates plenty of diversity. (Ferdman 2014, 11-12.) It can therefore be said that a diverse and inclusive workplace ensures reduced inequalities.
Diversity and inclusion are actively discussed topics in Finnish work life these days. Work-based immigration, speedy residence permit process to attract international experts and start-ups to Finland and companies using their corporate social responsibility actions more and more in boosting their brand are just some concrete examples for how Finnish work life is changing and how global sustainability development goals become more common practises regionally. In today’s world it is good to keep in mind also that a company can not really afford to be seen as discriminating or unsustainable as young people do not see these kinds of companies as attractive employers as many of them have grown up and studied in diverse communities.
Ferdman, B.M. 2014. The Practice of Inclusion in Diverse Organisations: Toward a Systematic and Inclusive Framework. In Ferdman, B.M. & Deane, B.R. (eds.). Diversity at Work: The Practice of Inclusion. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass. 3-54.
O’Donovan, D. 2017. Inclusion: Diversity Management 2.0. In Machado, C. & Davim, P.J. (eds.). Managing Organisational Diversity. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, AG. 1-28.
Starr-Glass, D. 2017. Workforce Diversity in Small- and Medium-Size Enterprises: Is Social Identification Stronger Than the Business Case Argument? In Machado, C. & Davim, P.J. (eds.). Managing Organisational Diversity. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, AG. 95-117.
To, H. 2021. From Diversity to Inclusion: A Transformational Strategy of Corporate Culture Development. Bachelor’s thesis. LAB University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lappeenranta. [Cited 13 Dec 2021]. Available at: https://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2021120924794
Unconventional Ventures. 2021. The Startup Funding Report. [Cited 13 Dec 2021} Available at: https://report2021.unconventional.vc/
United Nations. 2021. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021. [Cited 13 Dec 2021]. Available at: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2021/The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2021.pdf
Huy To is Bachelor Student in LAB Tourism and Hospitality Management study programme graduating in December 2021.
Jaana Häkli is a senior lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences and works as a project specialist for TalentHUB South Karelia project.
Illustration: https://pxhere.com/fi/photo/772962 (CC0)
Reference to this article
To, H. & Häkli, J. 2021. Working towards sustainable development goals by embracing diversity and inclusion. LAB Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/working-towards-sustainable-development-goals-by-embracing-diversity-and-inclusion/