In our recently launched newsletter The Compass, we talked about how this is a pivotal moment for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Efforts to dismantle DEI initiatives are at an all-time high, and yet, employee commitment to DEI remains high as well. For younger employees, commitment to equitable workplaces is practically non-negotiable.

So what makes it easy to dismantle DEI efforts, and what would be necessary for their success?

If you’re engaging with the ongoing conversation about the current landscape of DEI, you’re likely aware that this is a deeply uncertain moment. Legislative dismantling of DEI policies, mixed results from DEI initiatives and wavering leadership has inspired a fair share of reasonable critiques about superficial efforts to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in our professional spaces.

Currently, there are some poignant articles circulating about the industry’s biggest red flags; the warning signs within organizations that the DEI efforts have been superficial at best and therefore are easily collapsed under the slightest breeze.

But at TNEDI, we’re always curious about who’s doing it well, who seems to be succeeding in spite of the current climate, and what the necessary conditions are for fortitude and stability in the midst of stormy seas.

Here are our recent noticings that provide hope, along with a few essential strategies.

One stalwart defense in the current landscape of increasing attacks against DEI is the interconnectedness of DEI to other essential pillars of ethical business. A great example of this can be found in certified B Corporations.

Companies that have earned B Corp status must pass rigorous evaluations of their governance, worker experience (including pay equity metrics), community health (of which DEI is the first measurable component), environmental impact and relationship to clients.

The connection of these metrics makes sense. People of the global majority are the most impacted by the climate crisis and environmental injustice, so to commit to improving environmental impact while ignoring racist policies and practices (either internally, client-facing, or in your supply chain) simply doesn’t make sense.

Fundamentally, in a model like B Corp’s, DEI is a non-negotiable metric of an organization’s overall health, because it is essential to all aspects of ethical business.

Additionally, it’s clear to us that companies whose DEI policies have been built into the fabric of the organization seem relatively unphased by external pressure. We work with a company, for example, that has had employee resource groups (ERGs) in place to support employees with traditionally marginalized identities for years.

ERGs are a part of the company’s DNA. This company is multinational, so efforts to understand one another across lines of difference is essential. The company recognized that there was a lack of diversity in leadership that wasn’t representative of their employee population as a whole or of their client base, so they did the necessary research, learned new strategies and techniques and built diversity and belonging into the leadership team’s vision and mission.

The company also has quarterly community gatherings, led by internal teams of volunteer facilitators, to bring ease to conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion so that it’s an integrated and well-developed skill for professional communication.

Fundamentally, DEI can’t be dismantled easily because it’s everywhere.

A recent participant said: “For me, these conversations are like the safety trainings I would take consistently if I worked in a high-risk environment. I need this information so it’s fresh in my mind, and so I can keep myself and my colleagues safe and cared for.”

Neither of these examples are perfect, and there is much work to be done. But fundamentally, DEI is too big to fail within these models. It’s connected to, and interdependent with, the most important aspects of the organization.

If DEI is the philosophy and approach to the how of the other essential business structures, it’s no longer siloed, superficial or performative, and as a result, easily dismantled.

Let us work with you to strengthen your strategic approach to embedding DEI into the DNA of your work.

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