The Role of Business in Promoting Equality and Diversity in Society

There is no shortage of political, economic, environmental and social crises affecting business climates around the world these days. Some develop gradually, while others strike suddenly and catch the global business community by surprise. It is in this changing and tumultuous landscape that businesses often fail to future-proof themselves, becoming even more vulnerable to subsequent crises. For example, the current influx of people seeking asylum in the EU to escape political persecution, war and terror makes this a challenging time for European society and business. For awake and creative brands, these challenges and times of change present the biggest moments of opportunity for reinvention and rebooting relevance in response to a changing world. And the most impressive brands are embracing these global challenges as a force to create a more inclusive, just and diverse society.

Embracing Global Challenges to Create a More Inclusive, Just and Diverse Society

Brands are having to play in an increasingly more diverse, more unequal, messier social landscape. Doing “good” is an imperative because around the world, consumer trust in brands is low, brand relevance is increasingly in question, and the expectation that businesses deliver on values (as well as value) is becoming a consistent demand to a world in transition. Good business practice which translates into reputation, authenticity, and trust is necessary for the ability to operate today’s business climate. Purpose-driven companies and socially-focused enterprises are now working to make society more inclusive and cohesive; building an inclusive society. It’s well established now that the most successful companies are doing the good work.

Examples of Businesses Promoting Racial and Ethnic Inclusion

Building and maintaining resilience in corporate sustainability agendas in times of persistent crisis mode is tricky, and navigating such tricky times is a complicated dance requiring new types of leadership and partnerships. Below are some examples of business initiatives and enterprises that are promoting diversity and social inclusion.

“We should welcome people who come to us fleeing from suffering. We are convinced that through sport we have the power to change lives, hence we accept the challenge to help refugees integrate into society through sports.” – Herbert Hainer, CEO, Adidas

The current influx of people seeking asylum in Germany to evade persecution, war and terror, makes this a challenging time for Germany; however, it is one that holds many opportunities if people, politicians and companies join forces. In order to motivate and inspire others, 36 German companies have launched a business-driven integration initiative called WeTogether to drive long term projects that aim to help refugees find their place in society. With internships, intercultural workshops and job application trainings, Adidas, founding member of WeTogether, has raised the bar for how to integrate new members of German society into the workforce.

Social enterprises are emerging in Europe with the goal of integrating refugees into the workforce and ultimately promoting a culture of inclusion. One such startup, Kiron, is a free online learning platform designed to help young refugees place into colleges around the world. According to a recent article in Bloomberg, Kiron’s founders have raised more than €3 million ($3.3 million) from a crowdfunding campaign as well as from private and corporate donors ranging from Google Inc. to BMW. Their aim is to help asylum-seekers fill the gap of time before becoming formally legalized to develop skills or earn degrees that could help them acclimate to their new country, or prepare for the day when they can return home.

“When you meet people who have goals and dreams like you, who have the same skills and abilities as you, but have no chance to live up to their potential, it’s hugely unfair. It’s just a coincidence to be born in a safe environment like Europe, where we take for granted things like free education.” – Markus Kressler, co-founder, Kiran

Coding academies like Integrify, are popping up throughout the EU as well. Integrify was started by a pair of Finnish tech entrepreneurs who wanted to help asylum-seekers integrate more speedily into European society by finding work in the tech industry with highly sought-after coding skills.

Purpose-driven enterprises create sustainable growth by taking into account a long-term vision for how their business will operate most productively in the future. They understand that diversity and inclusion is a necessary part of a stable society and customers now expect businesses address the most pressing issues we face. Purpose-driven enterprises are at the heart of inclusive growth due to their emphasis on people and social cohesion: they create sustainable jobs for women, young people and the elderly, they contribute to equity and stability in society. Many businesses use their product and services to effect social and economic transformation which contributes to a more just, diverse and socially inclusive society.

To learn more about businesses promoting social inclusion, including a keynote on WeTogether, join us at SB’16 Copenhagen on September 26-28, 2016.


Image credit: Wir zusammen

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