Diversity, inclusion and CSR (corporate social responsibility) were once considered programs that distracted companies from maximizing shareholder returns. In today’s world of radical transparency and increasing stakeholder expectations, good governance and reputation management are integral.

This allows forward thinking companies to grow and innovate. These companies realize that initiatives seeking to understand and incorporate different stakeholder perspectives will provide them with important and timely information to make decisions.

"Diversity helps to stimulate innovation, and without it businesses would be vulnerable."

When companies embrace a more stakeholder-centric approach instead of shareholder-centric view, diversity and CSR programs simply become good business practice.

A changing perception

The mining sector is an example of an industry that understands the importance of CSR, as the link between social license to operate and CSR is irrefutable.

The mining industry in Canada, and particularly in BC, has undertaken some innovative CSR initiatives. However, when it comes to diversity, the industry is aware of the barriers that keep it from being more inclusive.

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) has undertaken an important initiative called The Take Action for Diversity Network.

Some of Canada’s biggest mining companies have signed on to this initiative, including Vancouver headquartered Teck Resources. These companies have committed to increase the engagement of women, youth and Aboriginal peoples in the industry.

In addition, as businesses in BC face an imminent labor shortage, more companies are looking to skilled immigrants to fill their talent gap.

Some innovative examples include companies looking to break down internal barriers for advancement for Aboriginal peoples, or providing tours of mine sites to high school students (specifically young women) to help change perceptions of the industry.

Many companies have diversity and inclusion as one of the pillars of their overarching CSR strategy. Not surprisingly, the business benefits of diversity are the same as the business benefits of CSR. These include:

Increased engagement and understanding of customers and suppliers:

A workforce that reflects the diversity in the environment it operates can help the company understand customer needs and supplier issues.

This leads to more engagement and ultimately, better sales. A company that can match its own internal diversity with the external diversity of its customers is going to satisfy more people and prosper in the process.

Innovation and ability to adapt:

Having a diverse workforce generally means that the company is able to adapt to changes. Diversity helps to stimulate innovation, and without it businesses would be vulnerable – relying on a very narrow skill-base and group of opinions.

Recruitment and retention of staff:

Running a business in an open and transparent manner that treats staff with fairness is important in retaining and attracting the right kind of staff.

This is especially important to the younger generation and the increasing number of working mothers returning to the workforce.

In truth, diversity means different things to different people. The most important thing is creating a more rounded and balanced organization by integrating diversity (however a company and its stakeholders define it) into strategy, governance, customer relationships, recruitment, retention, career planning, and training.

Essentially, the inclusion of diversity, much like the inclusion of CSR, has to be woven into the DNA of the corporation itself.