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How DEI and Sustainability Can Grow Your Triple Bottom Line Saying your business values people and the planet is one thing, while actually centering diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability is another. And doing it right could lead to higher profits, more innovation and happier employees.

By Nika White

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When we talk about conscious businesses, we think of B Corps and those focused on the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. But you can take that triple bottom line one step further by centering the three e's of sustainability (environment, economics and equity) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into your work environment, team composition and culture.

Environment goes beyond what's outside of the office or in the natural world (although these are important elements, too). Environment also includes what goes on inside the business and how we can we create a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace. Building an inclusive environment is an investment in your business' growth, employee retention and culture. Here are three ways DEI can enhance your work environment.

Inclusion makes workplaces feel inviting

Focus on cultivating inclusion within the walls of your business. By that I mean: Do employees feel their gender, sexual orientation, ability or racial status are supported at work? Are there private spaces for prayer and mindfulness? Have there been efforts to offer culturally inclusive food in the company lounge? Infusing the workspace with inclusive people, spaces and practices can cultivate a more welcoming environment.

Diverse work environments promote better cross-cultural relationships

If your business works with partners across identity lines, employing people who reflect the diversity of your professional partnerships is a good idea. For example, if your business partners with organizations in the LGBTQ+ community, hire more LGBTQIA+ individuals into your business. Walking the walk on diversity and inclusion at the employee level can promote more authentic, longer-lasting and fruitful business relationships.

Diverse teams promote more innovative workspaces

If your business is creating a product or service that doesn't exist or it's filling a need in the market, generating good ideas that stand out from the crowd is crucial to your growth and development. Extraordinary ideas are cultivated in diverse rooms with multiple perspectives, identities and experiences.

Leaning into the lived experiences of employees is an underutilized tool in creating an inclusive and innovative work environment. According to new research on the Lived Experience Quotient (LEQ) by Jennifer Tardy Consulting, businesses can tap into the lived experience of their employees to improve DEI and business competitiveness. Businesses can learn from their employees' lived experiences by considering their:

  • Communication style.
  • Cultural traditions and observations.
  • Working style.
  • Insider cultural knowledge.
  • Parental or familial status.
  • Views on power and authority.

All of these lived experiences invite diverse perspectives to the table and can make your workplace more innovative and competitive. The benefit of hearing multiple perspectives and lived experiences can be the difference between standing out or blending in.

Related: 5 Tips for Dealing Better with Workplace Diversity

DEI and economics

Businesses need to focus on economics and profit to stay afloat. However, there's no need to sacrifice diversity, equity and inclusion to hit the bottom line. Economics aren't at odds with DEI. In fact, DEI can play a pivotal role in increasing profits, building social capital amongst employees, and bringing more customers into the business. Here's how DEI can grow your business on the economic front.

Inclusive boards and executive teams yield higher return

Executive boards and leadership teams that are more inclusive make more money than those that aren't. According to a 2015 McKinsey report, companies that are more diverse are 35% more likely to make higher profits. The secret is ensuring diversity is seen and heard at the table. More diverse perspectives promote higher levels of employee engagement and innovation.

Inclusive organizations promote more transparency and trust

When businesses are more transparent about pay, advancement opportunities, and business affairs, they're rewarded with the trust and buy-in of their employees. Organizations like Gravity Payments made the minimum wage in their business $70,000 per year. The result? Profits are up and employees are happily staying. It takes courage to reframe your thinking around profitability and salaries; but, it may be worth putting employee wellbeing and happiness first instead of last. In turn, your business may reap the benefits of increased employee trust, loyalty and economic growth.

Diverse teams enhance customer acquisition and revenue growth

When businesses hire the same type of person, it limits their growth. Employers should be hiring culture adds, not culture fits. Culture adds are individuals who bring a new skill or perspective to a company that enables it to grow. Diverse teams, with culture adds, can help businesses reach new and emerging customer markets. According to the Harvard Business Review, diverse teams are 70% more likely to capture new audiences than their less diverse competitors. More customers may lead to higher revenue growth and more economic prosperity.

Related: Avoiding the Sea of Sameness: How Hiring for Culture Improves DEI

DEI and social equity

The topic of equity includes the subtopics of social impact, fairer wages, ethical treatment, zero tolerance for discrimination and even flexible working hours. There are good reasons why these equitable practices help many triple bottom line businesses retain happy employees.

Promoting equity ensures opportunities are equally distributed

Businesses often make the mistake of offering advancement opportunities to the most loyal internal candidate or the person who the executive team feels the most comfortable with. The consequence of such selective hiring is that equally qualified candidates may not get the opportunity to serve in these roles because of favoritism. Conscious businesses can benefit from keeping an open mind about hiring for internal roles and instead equitably promote open positions to all employees in the company.

Inclusion leads to conscious decision-making

When the executive team is making hard decisions, it's common to keep conversations at the upper levels. Consequently, it shields other employees from chiming in and generating solutions. Businesses that include the perspectives of employees at all levels of the organization create more widely accepted decisions. Surveys, one-on-one meetings with HR or group conversations can be useful tools to make better company decisions.

Inclusive workplaces promote psychological safety

Psychological safety is an approach to workplace management that ensures employees can express concerns, ask questions or seek answers without fear, shame,or negative repercussions. Opening your business to regular group conversations about DEI, holding office hours with leadership or supporting employees in creating affinity groups can help bring important issues to the surface. Thus, promoting more psychological safety in your business. 

Related: How to Create Psychological Safety Among a Team

Showing (not telling) your commitment to people and the planet is essential to walking the walk on your company's values. All it takes is effort, dedication and the right tools to grow your business' impact and ensure your triple bottom line reaches its highest potential.

Nika White

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

President & CEO

Dr. Nika White is a national authority and fearless advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. As an award-winning management and leadership consultant, keynote speaker, published author and executive practitioner for DEI efforts across business, government, non-profit and education.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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