Beyond buzzwords: Diversity and inclusion content that marks out true leaders

Ever-growing stakeholder appetite for social change and purpose means companies taking action need to showcase and explain genuine efforts to stand out from the crowd

The importance of acting and being seen to act on environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles has risen fast up the business agenda in recent years. From investors to consumers, stakeholders are increasingly demanding that companies put themselves in the service not only of profit, but also of people and planet.

Until the pandemic, the focus was on the E aspect of ESG because of the urgency and visibility of the climate crisis. Covid brought social and governance issues to the fore as companies took extraordinary measures to keep employees and their families physically and mentally safe. And increasingly, employees (and lawmakers) are asking companies to make workplaces more diverse, equal and inclusive. Progress towards gender equality in pay, promotion and representation at management level is arguably as important now to a company’s good standing as reducing carbon emissions.

Surveys show consumers will boycott companies that treat employees, communities and the environment poorly. An overwhelming majority prefer to support or work for firms that care about the same issues as they do. Many organisations are making great strides towards change, but it’s not just about talking the talk on topics such as diversity and inclusion – walking the walk is critical, too.

Content on these topics, therefore, must be credible. It must showcase measurable progress to avoid accusations of window-dressing. And in a very crowded field, that content must also stand out.

Here, we take a look at some of the best diversity and inclusion content out there and explore what elevates it above the rest.

Avast: Top tips for women who want to succeed in tech

The Prague-based cybersecurity company is walking the walk when it comes to diversity and inclusion; it is shortlisted for this year’s National Diversity Awards in the UK. Yet this piece doesn’t shout about its achievements – instead it adheres to the writing principle of “show, don’t tell” while imparting genuinely useful and practical advice in a nicely personal style.

The introduction uses a device that gets the reader to think about social biases – specifically, our tendency to imagine tech workers as white, male “Mark Zuckerberg” types. It uses pertinent statistics to illustrate the gender gap in the industry, such as the finding of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that just 20 per cent of executives in “high tech” are women. The piece then lays out best practice that women can follow to shine in this male-heavy field, including studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects if they are into STEM more widely, and finding mentors – preferably more than one, to gain a “cross-section of advice”. The article also offers thoughts on being heard in meetings where everyone is trying to “shout the loudest”, by practising speaking up to overcome fears and breaking free of individual comfort zones. Each point is illustrated by the experiences of named women in key roles at Avast, who offer relatable insights and advice.

Volvo: LGBTQ+ Pride flags and what they stand for

Adopting rainbow logos or social media avatars during Pride Month has become a staple of corporate marketing departments. Here, car manufacturer Volvo moves beyond simple (but important) allyship with this piece exploring in detail the meaning and history of 15 of the different Pride flags, written by an ambassador of Volvo Group’s internal LGBTQ+ network, V-Eagle.

It’s an enlightening read that has genuine value in terms of informing readers about a topic that is not widely discussed, from the origins of the first Pride Flag – created by openly gay US military veteran Gilbert Baker – to the symbolism of each colour on the lesser-known Lesbian Pride Flag. And it demonstrates that Volvo truly understands the issues involved and that LGBTQ+ staff are heard at a corporate level. As an added bonus, the imagery makes the piece striking from a visual perspective.

Unilever: Equality AND equity. We need both to make a difference

Like Volvo, consumer products multinational Unilever delves into an important concept with which many are not broadly acquainted. The difference between equality and equity is critical to social justice – and here Unilever does an excellent job of explaining why acting on equity is essential to achieving overall equality, using clear, practical language and examples. Quoting Nitin Paranjpe, Unilever’s Chief Transformation & Chief People Officer, it says equity means that to achieve equality, interventions may be required to address needs, discrimination and barriers. For instance, it says, equality “will ensure that every employee has the same access to a computer, a desk, a chair and some level of training and support” for their job, while equity “recognises that a person with a visual impediment may need different technology or someone in a wheelchair may need a different access to a lift.”

The piece, which covers seven initiatives from employee policies on fertility and flexible working to talent management and Unilever’s Racial Equality Taskforce, also lays out the company’s efforts to make progress in these areas across its workforce, supply chain and brands, while being honest about how much remains to be done.

Sodexo: Unlocking the potential of multi-generational workforces

Amid the volumes of content produced on diversity and inclusion, this piece from facilities management company Sodexo stands out for taking on a widely ignored aspect: age. While once it was pretty much accepted that workers of a certain age would trundle off into career oblivion, rising pension ages, social shifts and economic factors are increasingly keeping people in the workforce longer than ever before. This means that teams with a wide range of ages are increasingly the norm in many sectors.

This article, written in the first person by Sodexo’s CEO of Service Operations Worldwide, employs a chatty, accessible style, uses statistics to back up the impact of the over-50s leaving the workforce and links out to a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report in which Sodexo’s diversity and inclusion strategy features as a case study. The piece is clear about the value that age diversity can bring, relating the company’s actions and experience in drawing the full potential from a multi-generational workforce to clients from a range of generations, including schools and care homes.

It gives details of the age spans within Sodexo’s workforce – which it says includes several examples of two or three family generations working together, one colleague who has been with the company more than 50 years and a 67-year-old apprentice – explaining that valuing and supporting employees at all stages of life helps Sodexo attract and retain the best talent. It also gives examples of how this works in practice, including a proprietary board game the company has developed called GenMatch, which helps educate employees on bias versus reality for different age groups. It’s evident that Sodexo understands this subject deeply, lending weight to its ideas and making this an impactful piece of thought leadership.

Boots: 2022 Beauty Trends Report: All together beautiful

Boots couldn’t be much more on brand with this feature, which links out to its larger Beauty Trends Report, now in its second year. The piece explores the issue of diversity and inclusion in beauty, explaining how beauty standards are being redefined and “barriers associated with colour, gender, age or body shape” removed. It backs this up with the assertion that there are now more Google searches for ‘body positivity’ than ever before, sourcing this to Google Trends as of January 2022. And it offers multiple examples of beauty brands that are working to increase inclusion, one being its own No7 range, which it says has reformulated its cosmetics line to ensure there are shades to match every skin tone. It’s an ideal topic for Boots, whose position as the UK’s leading health and beauty retailer gives it authority on trends in the sector.

The piece also introduces a longer-running campaign, #AllTogetherBeautiful, positioning Boots as a company that is leading in a material way on this issue. It details concrete actions Boots is taking ­– for example working to overcome the shame and silence common around periods by changing in-store signage to help alter perceptions – and offers interesting takes from internal leaders to explain these. Finally, it makes great use of imagery, with photos featuring models of different ages, body types, ethnicities and gender identities, and includes a video as well as links to related features, further helping to engage the reader.

Behind all of these pieces of content are companies with strong credentials on diversity and inclusion. Not only are they doing the right thing, but they are also showcasing those achievements in a way that is relatable and commands attention. With credible, engaging and thought-provoking content, companies can mark themselves out as leaders and reap the full benefits of their efforts.