From the Black Lives Matter movement to the fight for gender equity, there is no shortage of social justice issues in our time. The reality is that companies today are under pressure from employees, customers, investors, and their communities to take a stand on critical social justice issues.
Today, social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are important foundations of a company’s future. Not because it yields profit or provides monetary compensation, but because embracing different social justice actions can meet an evolving workplace’s changing priorities.
Attention is being given to racial justice and accountability, and it has brought progress towards diversity and inclusion. As leaders raise awareness on these DEI issues, they are also positively reshaping the communities they serve. On the other hand, leaders who aren’t giving attention to social justice issues are lagging behind.
Statistics from the Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that 54 per cent of employees globally believe that their CEOs should speak up about political and social justice issues. Meanwhile, 53 per cent of consumers believe that every brand has a responsibility to get involved in one social issue that indirectly affects its business.
Although leaders can’t weigh in on every social justice issue, there will always be an obvious moral reason why companies should take a stand. However, during other times, the reason may not be so clear.
When should companies speak up about social justice issues?
There are three main points you must keep in mind before taking a stand on a social justice issue. These are the following:
- Does it align with your company’s mission and vision? Your statements will be viewed as hollow and inauthentic if your company strategy is not aligned with the statements you are making.
- Can you influence the issue meaningfully? You may risk being seen as hypocritical or “woke-washing” if you aren’t willing to put your money where your mouth is.
- Will your employees, customers, investors, and community agree with speaking out? In what ways are your constituents affected by the social justice issue? If your constituents disagree with each other, you must carefully weigh their relative importance in your business.
How to create a powerful strategy for handling social justice issues
The World Economic Forum provided some tips on how to create an impactful DEI strategy that will help your company start. Below are the tips:
- Engage. Leaders should engage with the social justice issue and drive DEI efforts collectively. The company must ensure that all senior leaders are taking part in the DEI efforts to the same degree. Stereotypes must be combatted in every group. Managers must be trained and equipped to lead DEI efforts. Mentorship programs must be designed to create a diverse network of champions.
- Diagnose. Leaders should depend on comprehensive DEI data to develop the strategy, set goals, and measure progress. Companies can analyse internal market labour dynamics such as hiring, promotion, and turnover rates by population. They can also conduct DEI benefit assessments to understand gaps in policies and processes. The data can also be taken by capturing employee experiences through focus groups and surveys.
- Act. Leaders should integrate DEI into the company’s policies, programmes, and practices. They should update strategic business processes by considering political and social justice issues, such as creating anti-sexism and anti-racism policies. Leaders should also ensure equal access to upskilling and reskilling initiatives, provide opportunities for career advancement and growth, and strengthen grievance procedures through training.
- Accountability. Accountability is crucial in building trust. To remain accountable, companies must treat DEI goals like any other company goal. DEI goals can be linked to executive rewards and can be set in a measurable manner. DEI dashboards and scorecards can monitor progress, workforce representation, and results. These can be key drivers of representation and inclusion.
- Change management and communication. Starting a DEI strategy is “a whole system change,” according to the World Economic Forum. Leaders can make it work by building a culture that reinforces values. The culture you create is crucial for employees, customers, investors, and the community you are part of.
Remember that speaking up about a social justice issue can seem hollow or inauthentic if the company itself does not live by those values. Leaders must strike a careful balance.