Blueprint: On diversity and inclusion

Written by Soulla Kyriacou, COO at A Blueprint for Better Business

I was recently asked to speak about Blueprint at a diversity and inclusion conference in Liverpool – in preparing for this I reflected on what it is that Blueprint brings to this topic.

We help companies to be inspired and guided by a purpose that benefits society, as we believe that business has an important role to play in helping to create a better society. A role that goes further than minimising harm, but that positively contributes to building a better society for all.  What we are talking about is not corporate social responsibility – it is not about how a business can spend its money to benefit wider society. Instead, it is how their core business practices, how they make their money, benefits wider society. We encourage business to think about their purpose in the way that they operate their business, how they treat their people and the impact their business has on everything and everyone it touches – their customers, suppliers, their community, the environment and society as a whole.

Two key factors in formulating a business’s purpose, which is set out in our Framework, are respecting the dignity and value of people and the common good. When we talk about the dignity of people we refer to the whole person, this includes people as employees but also as customers, suppliers, investors, and members of communities and of wider society. By the common good we don’t mean for the benefit of most people, but each person – where everyone benefits and no one is excluded.

Our Framework sets out 5 ‘behaviours’ needed to help achieve purpose – and one of these is valuing diversity and building bridges – this is described as ‘being clear as to who you are and what you stand for, combining this with an openness to enrichment from others, valuing diversity of thinking’.  So what we are talking about is diversity and inclusion in its very broadest sense.

There is a lot of discussion at the moment around introducing quotas to achieve more diversity in business, in particular around the make up of boards. There are arguments for and against the use of quotas – but it is not enough to just bring together a group of people who are diverse – the key is for them have a voice that is not only heard but valued. It is not enough to bring together a group of people who look diverse from the outside – for example, if a group that appears outwardly diverse all have a similar background or education –  will they bring diversity of thought and perspective?

In order to address some of the challenges we are facing in society today – business and other institutions need to reflect the communities in which they operate. To do this, they need to embrace true diversity; this is much more than adding a few women or ethnic minorities, or a worker representative on a Board. It means looking at what the business wants to achieve – it’s purpose – reviewing the perspectives and diversity currently in the business and looking at what is missing, and what these missing perspectives can bring. Looking at diversity and inclusion from the angle of what perspective is missing in relation to specific areas allows business to value how improving and supporting diversity is essential to what they want to achieve as part of their core business.

The purpose of diversity is not to achieve diversity as a tick box activity, but instead genuinely valuing the inclusion and perspectives that real diversity can bring to the purpose of the organisation.