Diversity is Good for Business
But don’t make my word for it, I’m clearly biased
It’s Pride month, and here’s what I have to say about that…
Owning a small, diverse business is an awakening. A journey. It’s own special hell. The list goes on. Starting that small business just months before a global pandemic is a hard lesson in what really matters. Here’s what I’ve learned about the importance of diversity to the future of business.
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten
So, the question is: do you like the results you’re getting from your current vendors? Or are they just “OK?”
If you think you could be happier with another vendor, or if you think there may be better options out there, it’s time to start looking. Or, maybe you’re sick of being presented with warmed-over versions of the same ideas, for an ever-increasing fee.
Diversity of ideas, perspectives and professional experience matters. Diverse vendors and suppliers bring a fresh perspective to any project.
Let me give you an example. I spent a lot of time talking about the importance of inclusive restrooms and advocating for design that serves a broader set of users. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this article.
Every time I’m working on a project, and discussing why gendered restrooms are harmful (again, read the article above) and I share my personal experience with safety and harassment issues in gendered, public restrooms, inevitably at least one stakeholder will say, “I had no idea that was an issue.” Exactly. Because it’s not an experience that we share.
And I represent only one aspect of lived experience; there are many, many, many others.
Let’s get all those voices in the room.
The risks associated with doing what you’ve always done and getting what you’ve always gotten probably ring most true for those of us working in climate change. What we have been doing is clearly not working; it’s time to shake things up. Arguably, it’s way past time, but, let’s just get going.
Diverse teams perform better
I know this to be true, but don’t take my word for it, just ask…
- Harvard Business Review (Why Diverse Teams are Smarter)
- Fast Company (The Creative Genius of Diverse Teams)
- Forbes (New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making at Work)
Digging a little further into the Forbes article, here are a few highlights:
- Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.
- Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings.
- Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.
This quote from Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino also really hit home for me:
“That our decisions get sidetracked by biases is now well established. While it is hard to change how our brains are wired, it’s possible to change the context of decisions by architecting the composition of decision-making teams for more diverse perspectives.”
What does this all mean? Architect a better way. Diversify your supply chain and vendors because every business (1) the research shows the results will be better and (2) every business deserves a chance to succeed. New approaches and fresh perspectives drive better outcomes, for all.
Collaboration is key
This one comes from personal experience: as a consultant, I have found the most success by partnering with others — leveraging our separate expertise and building something greater than the sum of its parts.
Especially, and unfortunately, with respect to climate work, there is so much work to do — there really isn’t a need to be competitive. There is a need to call on everyone’s expertise to get a really big job done as quickly as possible.
A livable climate is a shared resource, let’s work together to ensure a common future.
What does this mean for you? Diversify your supply chain and include small and diverse businesses on your teams. I’ve done it, it’s easy and it’s been very successful. Start by bringing in an outside consultant for one aspect of a project where you may be lacking expertise (hint: that consultant could be us).
Money spent on small businesses goes further
If you need more reasons to diversify your supply chain, here’s a big one: every dollar you spend on a small business goes so much further.
I was recently invited on a colleague’s podcast, and she asked what I was most proud of since starting my business, as a global pandemic was brewing.
My answer? we’re still here. My company is still here.
And that was — and is — the honest answer. Who was hit hardest by the pandemic? Small businesses: restaurants, retail, and niche consultants like myself. Even when times are good, our margins are so slim that it is no wonder the pandemic disproportionately impacted those who bring so much vibrancy to our communities. The corporate behemoths? They were fine.
Again, you don’t have to take my word for it. American Express estimates that for every dollar spent at a small business, an average of $0.67 stays in that business’s local community.
Diversifying your supply chain manages risk and boosts value
Diversifying your supply chain, including service providers and vendors, helps manage supply chain risks. If you are all in with one or two companies, what happens when they are at capacity or a technology they rely on shuts down? You should diversify your vendors, consultants and suppliers to bolster your resilience to climate, regulatory and market shocks.
And let’s not forget about Environmental, Social and Governance or ESG. If you haven’t yet heard about ESG, don’t worry, soon it will be all you hear (if you need a quick primer, read this article). It is quickly becoming the benchmark for business and asset valuation and risk assessment, and it encourages — among many other things — diversity in many different forms, from Board composition to supply chain metrics. Failing to get smart on ESG, which has completely disrupted the financial industry, is a huge risk.
- If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten; so maybe it’s time to switch it up.
- Diverse teams perform better; the research is clear.
- Collaboration is key; there’s room for everyone and combining separate expertise creates a sum more innovative than its parts.
- Money spent on small businesses goes further; where are you spending your dollars?
- Diversifying your supply chain manages risk and boosts value; prepare for climate and market shocks and capture the benefits of widespread adoption of ESG.
Sustainable Strategies is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise and LGBT Business Enterprise. Let’s work together!