Today I want to talk about the differences and similarities between two areas of corporate social responsibility —ESG and DEI.
If you’re here, hopefully you’re already familiar with the concept of DEI, or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. DEI is used to not only educate but influence and hopefully change how power, privilege, and the intersection of our social identities impact our workplaces and society as a whole
ESG, is a little less familiar to the masses, but has increasingly become a topic of discussion.
ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. It is an approach used to evaluate a company's sustainability and ethical practices. E: environment—how is our work impacting the environment? S: Social —what impact is our work having on society? And the G: governance—how is our work, our company being managed? Is it being managed in a responsible, sustainable, and ethical way?
Obviously, it’s much more nuanced than that, but I’m just here to introduce the concept. I’ll include some resources below to help you dive deeper
Now this morning I was reading an article in which someone said that we should shift our focus from DEI to ESG and I couldn’t disagree more.
While ESG and DEI are related to each other, they address different aspects of corporate social responsibility.
ESG focuses on a company's environmental impact, ethical governance, and social responsibility. It includes factors such as climate change, resource efficiency, labor practices, and human rights.
While DEI, on the other hand, typically focuses on creating a work environment where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, abilities, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic. It also insures that a diverse mix of people externally feel invited to interact with the org in an equitable way .
Despite their differences, ESG and DEI are interrelated.
Promoting DEI can help a company build a stronger workforce, which can contribute to its long-term sustainability. In turn, a company that is committed to environmental sustainability and social responsibility is more likely to attract and retain a diverse group of employees who are concerned about the impact of their work on the environment and society.
However, lumping DEI under ESG would be a disservice to both concepts. First, it minimizes the importance of DEI as a separate and distinct concept. Again, DEI is not just about meeting legal requirements or checking a box. It's about creating a culture of inclusion and respect that benefits everyone.
Second, it would also dilute the impact of ESG. While DEI is an important factor in promoting sustainability, it is not the only one. A company can have a diverse workforce but still engage in unsustainable and unethical practices that harm the environment and society.
From experience working with projects that touch both areas, I can confirm that while interrelated, Both concepts seek to promote a better world for everyone, and we need both to achieve true sustainability and social justice. Despite that, these are very distinct aspects of corporate social responsibility and they have distinct goals and objectives.
What I’ve seen though is that ESG is more palatable to the masses for 2 reasons:
1) there are ESG ratings, which are designed to help organizations measure quality. But the problem with that is that there is no gold standard or agreed-upon definition of what is "quality ESG." I’ll link a recent Harvard study about this below.
And 2) ESG is more palatable for the masses, because it’s much easier for people to talk about things such as global warming or illegal labor, which we often feel many steps removed from, and they're likely not top of mind every day. In contrast, DEI asks us to look at ourselves and actually reflect on how individual and group social identities and our current processes and procedures are disadvantaging or advantaging certain individuals and groups of people day to day, in our very own workplaces and societies. For a lot of folks it’s not easy to talk about identity or to address issues due to cognitive dissonance, or people just don’t want to— they’d rather just pretend the issues don't exist, or if they’re not negatively impacted by them, don’t see the point of talking about it.
Every day, there is no shortage of inequity in the workplace and in our society. And if you don’t believe me, you can hop on a variety of social platforms and see ACTUAL footage of it happening. Especially with historically marginalized individuals and groups of people.
Saying that we should move away from DEI or combine it with ESG is dangerous and harmful approach in my opinion.
So that’s it for today. Let me know what you think in the comments, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more.
Resources for today's discussion: