Diverse and inclusive companies perform better, but many companies have yet to connect it to business

A recent survey by DNV reveals that a growing number of companies are beginning to put Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) on the corporate agenda.

  • 79% say D&I figures in the company overall business strategy
  • 60% agree that a diverse & inclusive company is better performing
  • Only 32% say it is business critical 
  • 29% link it to increase innovation
  • 28% link D&I to new business opportunities
  • While 57.8% see D&I as a means of attracting and retaining talent

A recent survey by DNV reveals that a growing number of companies are beginning to put Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) on the corporate agenda. They tend to agree that a diverse and inclusive company is better performing, yet few see D&I as business critical. However, companies integrating D&I into their business model stand to gain significant performance benefits.

In DNV’s ViewPoint survey, most respondents indicate D&I to be important and part of the company agenda and business strategy. Digging deeper, only a few seem to deploy tangible actions in a structured way and less than 1 in 3 companies have set a company-wide policy. About half (51.9%) have instead limited their policy to a pilot or single initiative, indicating a focus on specific actions rather than a holistic company approach.

At the same time, there is increasing awareness of the business case for D&I borne out by numerous recent reports and studies. As per McKinsey1, ethnically diverse organizations are 36% more likely to outperform companies that are less diverse, while for gender diverse companies the percentage is 25. 

“Research shows that organizations embracing inclusivity are eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes and companies with more diverse leadership teams report higher innovative revenue,” says Barbara Frencia, CEO of Business Assurance in DNV. “Our study revealed that few have yet to connect diversity and inclusion to business performance. Awareness is increasing, but D&I is not core to how they operate. Thus, most companies today are far from gaining business benefits, yet.” 

As many as 88% do believe that a more diverse company is also a better performing company; however, only 32% see D&I as business critical. Company focus seems to be on improving culture, recruitment and company reputation.  Only 29% see increased innovation as a main benefit of structured implementation. Even fewer have their eyes set on new business opportunities (28%).

Companies should be looking to take advantage of the business benefits D&I can drive. But as revealed by the ViewPoint survey, most companies are just starting out and very few seem to have a structured approach.  Across all respondents, 41.8% do have principles & objectives included in company policies but only 36.8% have accountabilities & responsibilities spelled out. Even fewer measure impact of actions (20%).

“Clearly, there is a need to step-up if business benefits are to be grasped. Making D&I core to how the company does business is essential. Applying a structured approach to implement, measure and scale actions makes it tangible. There is excellent guidance available in D&I standards such as ISO 30415. The way to advance on D&I, making sure it contributes to your business performance, it is not really different from how you incorporate and address issues such as quality or environmental management,” says Barbara Frencia.

ISO 30415 – Human Resource Management – Diversity and Inclusion – is a relatively new standard published in May 2021. The standard provides a framework that every organization can adopt to integrate D&I in their processes. Specifically, it throws light on the entire employee life cycle and how each part can be reviewed using the D&I lens. This covers internal processes as well the external partners across the supply chain. Rather than approaching diversity and inclusion from a personal perspective, the standard provides a framework that works to cover all important aspects in an organizational context.

(1) McKinsey 2020, How diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) matter | McKinsey