Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

One in six people worldwide experience discrimination in some form, with women and people with disabilities disproportionately affected. Inequality threatens long-term social and economic development, jeopardizes social cohesion, harms poverty reduction and causes disparities in opportunities and outcomes, impeding economic efficiency. Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion throughout business operations is an important step in tackling inequality and eliminating discrimination worldwide. 

Non-discrimination is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upon which international human rights principles are founded. Article 1 articulates the inalienable and inherent rights that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." Article 2 provides that “no one shall be discriminated against in the enjoyment of the rights laid down in the Declaration on the grounds of "race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or another opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or another status."

The Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact reiterate these universal rights and, aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, drive the contribution companies can make toward the enjoyment of human rights, including the right to equality and non-discrimination: Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and Principle 6: Businesses should uphold the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation

DEI in the workplace:

According to Principle 6 of the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact, discrimination in employment and occupation refers to any distinction, exclusion or preference which has the effect of placing certain individuals in a position of exclusion or disadvantage in the labour market or the workplace because of their race, colour, religion, sex, disability, political opinion, national extraction, social origin or any other attribute which bears no relation to the job to be performed.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions identify as bases of discrimination the following intersectional factors:

What is DEI?

Diversity, equity and inclusion are different but complementary concepts. A business is required to implement all three aspects to reap the full benefits of a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce contributing a range of skills, knowledge, and experience. Diversity, equity and inclusion go hand in hand. 

Diversity often focuses on quantity: The representation of different groups in an enterprise. Business efforts to drive diversity aim to ensure that people from a range of groups experience equality of opportunity and treatment in access to employment, development, promotion and pay. Diversity refers not only to similarities and differences linked to personal characteristics such as age, disability, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation and people living with HIV but also similarities and differences such as values, workstyles, caring responsibilities, hierarchical levels and work roles. Each person has multiple groups they identify with which can change over time, potentially influencing and shifting their employment opportunities and outcomes.

While diversity tends to focus on quantity, equity and inclusion are focused on quality. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, that historically, some groups of people have experienced discrimination and that reaching equal outcomes will not be achieved by treating everyone the same. Equity and reaching equal outcomes require the allocation of resources and opportunities according to circumstance and need.

Inclusion is relational, it is about the experience of individuals and groups in the workplace. A person’s feeling of inclusion at work is related to their personal characteristics, their own behaviour and that of others and the environment they are in. Full inclusion happens when individuals experience a balance between belonging with others at work - feeling they are part of the whole enterprise – as well as being seen, understood, and valued as an individual, with a unique identity, skills, and experience. 

Companies seeking to counter discrimination should promote strong diversity, equity and inclusion policies and practices in the workplace throughout their operations and supply chains. Qualifications, skills and experience should be the basis for the recruitment, placement, training and advancement of business enterprises’ employees at all levels.

Why should companies take action on DEI?

Freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right and is essential for workers to be able to choose their employment freely, develop their full potential and reap economic rewards based on merit. 

Embracing a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is good for business. DEI initiatives enhance creativity and innovation, broaden talent attraction and retention, increase employee engagement and enhance reputation.

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