Katharina Cavano l Palladium - Jan 29 2024
In 2024, a Diverse Business is a Sustainable Business

In years past, we’ve turned to Palladium’s Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Rosanna Duncan, to predict the upcoming trends in the world of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). She’s shed light on the post-pandemic return to in-person work, provided insight into how employers can best support their people’s mental health, and shared tips on how to foster an open culture.

As we asked her to look forward to 2024, her message was clear; EDI can no longer be discussed in a vacuum. “If companies want to be sustainably successful, profitable, and impactful, they must meet their ESG (environmental, social, governance) goals,” she says, “and they need to include EDI and identify the other areas of the business that are distinct but share synergies with EDI.”

For Duncan and for Palladium, it’s all ‘sustainable business’. “Due to the nature of what we do at Palladium, whilst we recognise that there are many topics that intersect, our sustainable business framework is about creating an equitable, diverse, and inclusive working environment, safeguarding the communities we work with from harm, and reducing our environmental impact wherever we operate in the world.”

While it may have been unusual language when she launched, Duncan adds that ‘sustainable business’ is no longer associated simply with environmental work. “We were at the cutting edge when we began, but the conversation is shifting and we’re seeing more people including components like People and EDI under sustainability.”

Duncan explains that while it’s important to acknowledge that EDI, safeguarding, and environmental protection are distinct and important on their own, it’s equally critical to recognise the many cross-cutting themes amongst them. This is why teams are dedicated to each area, but those teams also work together and share common goals.

“You can’t have a conversation about EDI without sexual harassment, and you can’t have a conversation about safeguarding without considering sexual exploitation and abuse, and at the same time you can’t think about climate change without acknowledging that women, girls, and Indigenous communities are being hardest hit by its effects.”

Duncan believes that there’s far more opportunity for impact when these teams are brought together to address overlap, avoid duplication, and better equip an organisation to set meaningful ESG goals and adopt more sustainable business practices.

Employee Engagement

Since launching her Sustainable Business Forums for employees in 2019, Duncan’s seen an uptick in participation across the organisation – a significant driver of success.

“The key win is that by bringing these three interrelated topics together, we’re broadening the scope of people engaging with each of them,” she says. “Those employees who may have come for the environment updates are seeing how climate relates to our EDI work and how that work will enhance the project they’re delivering and the safety of the communities in which they work.”

Implementing Sustainable Business Strategies

Other companies may choose to include additional elements that contribute to building a sustainable business. But, they still must be clear that they’re committed to recognising the distinctions and communicating that though they have brought these areas together, it doesn’t mean that they are any less committed to progressing these elements as individual areas of concern.

Duncan also believes that there must be someone at the top table driving the strategy forward. “Our success is thanks in part to the fact that EDI and Sustainable Business more broadly has been recognised at the executive leadership level and as the global lead for Sustainable Business, I can support cascading the strategy and vision through a very clear framework.”

She recommends that organisations establish distinct but related strategy maps for their sustainable business areas. “The roadmap delivery pillars for each of our sustainable business areas are the same, which enables us to have a more fluid conversation and ensures that we have consistency across our approach, so that the teams can deliver on it.”

Ultimately, like any EDI strategy, this isn’t a tick-box exercise; it’s about establishing priorities that are both practical and will help make a difference for a business and the communities in which they work. “Businesses who aren’t thinking about these things and moving in this direction are going to struggle in the long run,” she says.

As EDI efforts are making the news as of late for waning corporate support, it’s becoming all the more important to think about it as fully embedded in a broader approach to sustainability. Because corporate support or not, these things are becoming more important to people and future employees. Duncan expects that having a clear vision around sustainable business will give organisations an edge in the war for talent and beyond. “As always, it’s not just a nice to have, it’s a business imperative.”

For more, read 'For Palladium's Diversity Chief, the Pursuit of Equality is Personal' or contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com.