The Northeast Recycling Council recently hosted its first session in a series of diversity, equity and inclusion training events titled, "Making the Case for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – Building the Foundation for DE&I in the Workplace."
Cheryl T Coleman, vice president of sustainability, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), discussed how employers can build a diverse and equitable culture.
"When we have policies and practices that create inclusion and make our employees feel welcome, value and respected, then we are really demonstrating that we are willing to provide an equitable and fair access to progression opportunities," Coleman said.
To achieve this, employers must move beyond just diversity and shape the work environment into one that is safe and open for each individual. A strong foundation is the key, where all workers feel a sense of belonging.
The result is a "well-managed, diverse" team that brings a wide range of knowledge and skills to the company, Coleman stated. Problem solving becomes more comprehensive as workers from different backgrounds can identify issues that often are overlooked.
"That ultimately gives that company a competitive edge in assessing new markets and a higher market share," she explained.
Coleman continued by explaining how while sustainability was once synonymous with the word environment, the term has evolved to encompass labor and ethical prerogatives within an organization.
"Sustainability today is also about having a business culture that ensures you have a diverse staff, and that staff receives wages that allow them to thrive," Coleman said."It operates with governing principles that start at the CEO level that include ethics, cybersecurity and the health and safety of the employees and the surrounding community."
These concepts typically are reinforced in an organization's environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.
There's no denying the workplace culture is changing. Coleman noted the emergence of the pandemic and the "largest work-from-home experiment" as well as the movement to end policies and practices that fail to allow historically underrepresented and marginalized groups to succeed.
"The physical, mental and emotional impact of all of these events has motivated company leaders as well as us as individuals to really look more closely at the toll they have taken on our lives," she said.
Because of the visibility of racial unjust and inequities, company leaders now are more intentionally committing to DEI efforts in the workplace as well as becoming more transparent about these actions via ESG goals.
Coleman added that as stakeholders demand change, the "trade-off is finding that the greater the diversity in the workplace and the boardroom has the strong potential to drive long-term firm financial performance."