Discussions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – collectively abbreviated to DEI – have been on the rise lately, but being part of Human Rights, the three subjects are not new at all. The three related subjects have been extracted from existing discourse and packaged into a conceptual construction for companies and organizations to readily focus on, facilitating advocacy and formulation of policies for their implementation.
Equity and Inclusion are explicitly included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948, by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). As such, it is binding to member countries, meaning that all United Nations members are required to implement the thirty articles listed in this declaration. Diversity is not stated explicitly but, over time, has evolved into a characteristic of modern society that is becoming more prominent in the 21st century.
In modern societies, mobility and ease of communication have tremendously accelerated, facilitated, and expanded the possibilities for interaction between citizens and communities. On the other hand, this development also produces tensions that led to the necessity for safeguards like DEI in organizational and societal life to reduce frictions among people from different backgrounds that circumstances beyond their control have brought together, in some cases in close proximity.
Additionally, the advance in social media accelerated communication and interaction by tearing down social walls that have separated community members in the past. Social media provides communication channels that allow people who are total strangers and have never even met in person to engage in intensive interactions that, in some cases, instigate serious altercations in cyberspace.
Diverse but Equal
Diversity is an acknowledgment that human beings are intrinsically different in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion, culture, political views, education, social background, and so on. Most of these traits are innate; people are born into social circumstances or have inherited genetic characteristics that are inseparable from an individual’s identity.
Diversity is an unavoidable consequence of modern life that drives human beings from various backgrounds to congregate and become part of the same community. Being cognizant and respectful of all these differences is the essence of diversity and is essential to allow individuals to live together and avoid unnecessary conflict.
Recognizing that all human beings are equal despite all their diversity is the essence of equality. A top executive has no more rights in society than the lowest-ranking employee in his or her organization, although, in terms of income and facilities provided by the company, they accrue more benefits in line with their greater responsibilities. However, in terms of political rights, the right to express opinions, the right to obtain legal protection, and other rights as citizens and humans, both are completely equal.
Inclusion may be understood as the opposite of exclusivism or elitism. In practice, inclusion means that a person should not be ostracized or discriminated against in the work environment for whatever reason. Companies are obligated to create a comfortable working atmosphere for all employees without exception, allowing for harmony in social life.
Consistent and Consequent
The prerequisite to diversity is the consistent and consequent application of equity and inclusion; the three are inseparable. DEI is put into practice in the form of programs and policies that embody human rights principles; therefore, companies need not be concerned that there appears to be an ever-increasing array of obligations that they need to fulfill.
Companies or organizations that have internalized the principles of ISO 26000 and express commitment, among others, to upholding human rights by signing on to the UN Global Compact will not encounter problems implementing DEI. The first two principles of the UN Global Compact concern human rights, namely that businesses should support and respect human rights and ensure that there are no human rights violations within companies and their supply chains.
DEI should not be an issue to signatories to the Global Compact. DEI may actually serve as guidelines for implementing some aspects of the compact. Currently, 118 companies or organizations are signatories to the Global Compact in Indonesia. Upholding human rights is one of the commitments of UN Global Compact signatories, and it is mandatory to make a report every year that may be done according to Sustainability Reporting in line with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standard.
Companies listed on the Indonesia Stock Exchange and financial service providers are required by the financial authorities to prepare a Sustainability Report. Many are guided by SNI ISO 26000:2013 in preparing CSR/Sustainable Development programs and initiatives. Compulsory reporting also predominantly follows the internationally recognized GRI standards.
As one of the seven core subjects, Human Rights also occupies a prominent place in ISO 26000. The ISO 26000 guide explicitly states that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of its reference points. Consequently, companies that purport to have applied ISO 26000 in their operations should be capable of taking the necessary measures with relative ease.
The UN Global Compact and ISO 26000 are references for implementing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It follows that the rules applicable to CSR communication in general (see PR INDONESIA edition 86/May 2022) should be applied in communicating human rights, which includes DEI. Communicating about CSR, including human rights, should be factual, without embellishments and not given to bombastic statements.
As stated in the May article mentioned above, there are six areas covered by ISO 26000: Human Rights, Labor Practices, Environment, Fair Operating Practices, Consumer Issues, and Community Engagement and Development. ISO 26000 requires that activities covering these six areas are conducted on the basis of good governance, i.e., be transparent and accountable.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 87th Edition, issued on June 2022, pages 48-49.
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