Navigating the Complex Terrain of Diversity and Inclusion: A Strategy for Modern Businesses


Navigating the Complex Terrain of Diversity and Inclusion: A Strategy for Modern Businesses

In the ever-changing world of business, promoting diversity and inclusion is now more important than ever. This is a key aspect of the “S” in ESG, and reflects the values of our modern society. Companies worldwide are grappling with the challenge of articulating their commitments to these values compellingly and authentically.

Two prime examples of the delicate nature of this balancing act are global brands Budweiser and Target. Each, in their way, has had to face the implications of this dilemma, underlining the complexities inherent in making LGBTQ+ a core aspect of a social marketing campaign.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the parent company of Budweiser, released a limited edition Bud Light can featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which was speculated to be an effort to enhance their Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) scores. However, the campaign backfired, resulting in a substantial business setback called “Bud Lighting.”

Target, another company with a rich history of supporting LGBTQ+ causes, encountered resistance over its LGBTQ+ Pride merchandise. Despite the company’s laudable performance on the Corporate Equality Index Top Companies for LGBTQ Employees, it withdrew some Pride merchandise. This decision might impact their strong ESG standings.

The predicaments of Budweiser and Target raise a crucial question for today’s businesses: How can we authentically and effectively communicate our commitments to diversity and inclusion without triggering controversy?

I’m afraid I don’t have any magical solutions, but I’ll do my best to offer my input and contribute to the ongoing discussion.

Empathetic Understanding

A crucial step for businesses is deeply understanding and empathizing with the communities they aim to support. Companies should take the time to engage with these groups to understand their experiences, challenges, and aspirations. This will ensure that any diversity and inclusion initiatives are not seen as superficial but as a reflection of the company’s commitment to these communities.

Active Engagement and Collaboration

Don’t show up only during Pride Month! Instead, include the underrepresented voices in your stakeholder engagements. Make the materiality assessment intentional to determine how your business, products, and operations impact consumers, suppliers, and community members from diverse backgrounds. Communicate clearly your findings and how your team is planning to address them, consistently and cohesively. What are the legitimate expectations from your stakeholders in this reagrd that will be part of a plan?

Long-Term Consistency and Integration

What plan? It’s not enough for businesses to ‘listen’ to their audiences; they must synthesize inputs and make them part of strategic business decisions. Authenticity in demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion demands consistency over time and integration across business functions. This means that diversity and inclusion should be reflected not just in marketing campaigns or specific product lines but in all aspects of the business, including recruitment, supplier choices, cross-cutting policies of community outreach, and internal culture.

For example, Target’s focus on supplier diversity is a testament to how a diversity commitment can be woven into the very fabric of a business. By collaborating with suppliers majority-owned by women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, veterans, or people with disabilities, they’ve made diversity and inclusion a core part of their business strategy.

In conclusion, the path to effectively articulating diversity and inclusion commitments requires a deep understanding of the concerned communities, active engagement and collaboration, and consistent commitment woven into the very DNA of the company. As businesses navigate this complex landscape, these principles can foster an environment that genuinely values diversity and inclusion.