ED&I and CSR have a lot in common. Where equality, diversity and inclusion programs promote equity of opportunity for all people and communities, Corporate Social Responsibility promotes initiatives that benefit society and communities as a whole (whether it’s through volunteering, philanthropy, company diversity, labour practices, or environmental conservation).
In short, they both champion:
One of the main differences between ED&I and CSR is how the former is required by law and the latter is not. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 means that employers are bound by certain legal requirements that promote equality in the areas of nine protected characteristics1. Although it’s by no means fool proof, it does mean HR departments are more focussed on ED&I rather than CSR, which is predominantly self-regulated in the UK.
If that’s the case, then why should companies care about CSR, and how would ED&I programs bolster their effectiveness?
As the rate of globalisation speeds up, so do the demands of consumers. The internet made our world smaller, with information shared faster and further than ever before (and raising a million ethical questions in the process!) This digital awakening started with millennials – our future leaders – and opened its doors to the generations that preceded and proceeded them. In a world of instant information exchanges, it’s no wonder we’re seeing a rise in ethically minded job seekers. The new wave of candidates want to work for organisations that actively make positive changes and adopt responsible practices in and for their environment2.
That’s why, at its core, CSR is a worthwhile initiative. Implementing it within a sustainable business model improves a company’s brand profile, attracts high quality and loyal candidates, helps control costs, and facilitates long-term financial success3.
That said, there are those who question the motivations of some CSR initiatives. Past criticisms have called into question the sincerity of CSR efforts, with its disingenuity particularly stark in industries that harm consumers and/or the environment in some way, such as those selling tobacco or alcohol products. On the contrary, CSR is praised for its promotion of popular movements like ethical consumerism and socially responsible investing. Yet, there is a way CSR can expand its reach even further, and that is through partnerships with ED&I programs4.
Firstly, there is a distinct lack of diversity within CSR, despite the mutual end goals5. Where HR and recruitment teams generally focus on embedding ED&I programs internally, CSR will be a department in and of itself that looks at initiatives externally. By bringing these two departments together to work cross-departmentally, their skills can be combined to achieve greater success. Where CSR looks at enhancing a company’s brand profile, ED&I is one of the top priorities for graduates looking for their first role out of University6. While CSR wants to attract high quality and loyal candidates, ED&I builds safe, inclusive and diverse workplace cultures that inspire loyalty. Where CSR wants to facilitate long-term financial success and control costs, ED&I reduces turnover and increases productivity when properly embedded in a workplace7. In turn, CSR can help ED&I programs with stakeholder engagement, community relations and supply chain assessments.
In short, to be implemented properly, CSR and ED&I both require robust business models. By joining forces to their mutual benefit, they can not only strengthen each other’s initiatives, they can make real changes to both the internal and external landscapes they seek to improve.