Learning From the 2020 Best of the Best Champions of Diversity

As many companies strive to improve the diversity of their workforce and supply chain, some simply stand out because they set new standards each year. Never satisfied with the progress made, their diversity leaders are continuously developing new initiatives and strategies to help their organizations become more diverse and more inclusive. Diversity without inclusion is not enough because people can only thrive when they are able to bring their authentic and whole selves to work, and diverse businesses can only thrive when they have fair opportunities to participate in the economy. Organizations also need inclusion because inclusion is necessary to enjoy the rich and research-proven advantages a diverse workforce and supply chain offers – creativity, innovation, higher shareholder value, higher quality customer experience, more engaged workforce, access to new markets, new collaborative partnerships, and on and on the list goes.

The 2020 Best of the Best Champions of Diversity are the people in organizations that have relentlessly pursued diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a business imperative. They continuously work to remove barriers internally and externally, reaching out to business and community leaders. Many of the companies are global, so their reach extends far. Champions are working in areas like creating a respectful and inclusive culture, adding diversity to their Board of Directors and leadership at all levels, bias training, establishing KPIs for accountability, ensuring Employee Resource Groups share their experiences beyond the group, addressing mental health as an inclusion issue, developing initiatives with measurable goals, assisting diverse and small businesses with complex procurement and contracting processes, and mentoring diverse suppliers in the supply chain in utilizing corporate business as a springboard for growth.

This year, DiversityPlus is naming 32 Best of the Best of the Best Champions of Diversity for 2020. Through the work of dedicated diversity professionals and champions, their organizations set the standards and benchmarks across industries. It is inspiring to realize that so many companies in a variety of industries are proactively working to achieve greater workforce and supplier diversity. The industries represented include manufacturing, biopharmaceuticals and pharmaceuticals, professional services, public utility and energy, telecommunications, healthcare, airlines, technology, insurance, food processing and wholesaling, office supplies, banking and financial services, postal services, health services, and department and grocery stores. Each year, there are new organizations added to the march forward to promote values like social and economic equality as they realize future competitiveness and success depends on the honest embracing of all people in a fair manner. However, the Champions are also community leaders, attending diversity events, working with schools and local businesses, and creating broad networks.

Of course, there are certain people in each company who are passionate about Diversity & Inclusion, and they are the ones who relentlessly pursue progress. Overcoming conscious and unconscious bias is not easy. All the carefully worded policies are not worth much if organizational leaders allow bias to influence decisions about people – hiring, promotions, and opportunities for training and development – and suppliers – procurement opportunities at department and organizational levels. The champions of diversity are the diversity executives and managers, diversity and inclusion office teams, supplier diversity professionals, executives participating in Employee Resource Groups, and employee ambassadors in the workforce. Even these people would have difficulty making as much progress as they do without the support of the CEO. Top down support from the C-suite is crucial to holding organizational leaders accountable, supporting D&I teams and initiatives with the necessary resources, and establishing an organizational culture that embeds D&I in everything – marketing, talent management, product development, community interface, management decision-making, and supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals for human rights on a global basis. Asked about the foundation of their success, without fail the diversity professionals name CEO support.

We encourage everyone to read each of the short descriptions of these 2020 Best of the Best Champions of Diversity, taking inspiration and developing a stronger resolve to increase diversity and inclusion in their own organizations. This is an effort that must continue to strengthen for the good of all because diversity will continue to expand in the domestic and global labor force and in business ownership.