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A healthy business is defined not just by accounting and sales margins but also by its internal fitness. Infrastructure, employee satisfaction, community engagement, and company culture are critical areas of attention. They drive profits, productivity, and expansion, and create a brand image that attracts conscientious customers and clients.

Initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and sustainability are inextricably tied to growth and success. They are critical areas of corporate development, and as we move into 2021, they form the keystones of corporate longevity.

To thrive, companies must address the triple bottom line (3BL) of people, planet, and profit.

This concept has always been a part of corporate wisdom, but now, it’s taking the spotlight. Businesses must cultivate a healthy, supportive workplace to attract new employees and investors, while community engagement leads to more productive employees and contributes to a robust, active local economy. As business becomes more global, this principle holds true with an international scope.

In discussing 3BL, profit is often prioritized, but as our CEO, Donald Thompson, has noted, we don’t need to divide our resources between these three objectives. Each bottom line supports and boosts the success of the others.

When employees feel supported, organizations see higher participation in sustainability initiatives and an increase in revenue. Similarly, when we launch sustainability initiatives, profits and employee satisfaction soar. 

Attending to the triple bottom line is a strategic choice. As you and your team prepare for a dynamic future, you should invest in DEI and green practices to lay the foundation for growth, expansion, and prosperity.

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The Case for Sustainability

DEI and sustainability initiatives are vital parts of your executive toolkit. Sustainability attends directly to the planet aspect of 3BL, but it also has a powerful effect on both profits and employee satisfaction. In 2021 and beyond, sustainable practices will be a business imperative for long-term success. 

Company behavior is more visible than ever, and consumers hold strong opinions about ethical consumption. In fact, a majority of Americans believe companies should take action in addressing climate change. Corporate issue advocacy is overwhelmingly popular, with 86% of the general US population in favor of companies addressing social and environmental issues and 87% stating that they would purchase a specific brand primarily because the company advocates for an issue they care about.

Younger generations are even more supportive of and responsive to corporate responsibility. In the future, we can reasonably expect that climate-friendly practices will become even more important as customers decide where to shop and do business. Organizations must lay the groundwork now for climate-conscious production and brand impact.

Sustainability also has a meaningful impact on employee satisfaction. Studies across the U.S., Europe, and Asia have found that companies with sustainable practices inspire greater productivity, loyalty, and advocacy than companies that lag behind in sustainability. The employees surveyed also feel happier, safer, and more respected. Workers want to know their employers care about the climate and their community. Sustainable infrastructure is already an area in which companies must stay competitive to maintain expansion.

Additionally, sustainability supports improved product and service development. In other words, embracing climate-friendliness opens a company to new markets, inspires new products and services, and drives innovation. Not to mention that green strategies, like improving product life-cycle, are proven to boost customer satisfaction.

How DEI Supports Sustainability

Strategic planning of both DEI and sustainability is critical to preventing burnout and maximizing return on investment, or ROI. The far-reaching benefits of DEI are overwhelming and can dramatically improve the efficacy of sustainability efforts.

Internally, DEI builds a strong foundation for companies to grow. Diverse voices aid in creative problem-solving and decision-making. New ideas and innovative solutions benefit from contrasting perspectives and approaches. A diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace also contributes to a culture of respect and openness, paving the way for conversations around sustainability. Employees want to work for companies with diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultures. 

Also, conscientious consumers are prepared to pay more for ethically produced goods and services; they want to feel represented by the brands they trust. Corporate leadership must engage with the needs of responsible, thoughtful consumers.

Effective DEI can also model a path to success for sustainability. In much of Europe, for instance, it is common practice for DEI and sustainability to cohabitate in one department with one C-Suite executive handling both initiatives. This arrangement both improves synergy and centers the conversation around social responsibility as a whole. 

The common thread of accountability clarifies not just the how of these improvements, but the why as well. At their heart, DEI and sustainability are part of the movement towards more ethical corporate practices. Housing sustainability alongside DEI brings out the strengths and benefits of each.

Corporate Integrity: a Guiding Strategy

Profitability is a major incentive to invest in green-business and DEI, but the need for all three areas of the 3BL goes deeper than just numbers and margins. In the past year alone, companies and communities across the globe have been shaken by major, even calamitous events. As we adjust to a world of global uncertainty and increasing corporate influence, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has never been more vital. Companies have an ever-increasing impact on the world and its global health. As such, corporate leaders have a duty to safeguard our people and our planet.

A focused, conscientious company can thrive as a business and make the world a better place via sustainable practices and DEI. The emotional reward and fulfillment felt by executives, entrepreneurs, investors, customers, and employees cannot be overstated. 

Companies cannot be satisfied with only attending to the profit arm of the triple bottom line. Planet and people boost company growth and expansion while building a stronger future. As industry leaders, we can show our customers and colleagues that human impact planning is both strategic and imperative. CSR is not simply a marketing tactic: it’s an modern business imperative.

Moving Forward with Sustainability and Diversity

Ultimately, embracing sustainability increases a business’s integrity and longevity. In 2021 and beyond, strategic planning must include climate reform and human-impact assessment. Businesses depend on social stability, community wellness, and natural resources to function and to thrive. Without attention to sustainability, corporations risk losing customers and employees and ignore the very real threat of climate unpreparedness. 

At The Diversity Movement, our mission is to help our business partners build a winning corporate culture. Our courses help you create an infrastructure, foster inclusion, and empower your team to perform at their best. As you work towards a more sustainable future and all the benefits that future can bring, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for guidance in implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organization.

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Claire Korzekwa is a freelance writer and product manager based out of Chapel Hill, NC.

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