Diversity and inclusion must be included in sustainable future

Let’s face it. We live in an incredibly divided world.

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As corporate executives, we must lead the cultivation of a more inclusive, equitable world for all. We not only must steward the environment but also explore ways to meet the needs of the vulnerable and create healthy platforms for people of all backgrounds to embrace commonalities, celebrate differences and heal tensions.

The Salvation Army has been working to build a sustainable society and environment for 133 years. It started with the fight against social injustice and poverty. William and Catharine Booth who is the founders of the Salvation Army, promoted already in 1886 that at all people have equal value, and that all people have the opportunity for change, development and growth.

There is a lot of talk about the importance of sustainability. Very often this is linked to the environment and circular economy. To a lesser extent, we see in Norwegian media that if we are to connect to a sustainable society, inclusion and diversity must be emphasized to a greater extent and not just the environmental focus. There is a general consensus that sustainable development requires stable social conditions. Equitable distribution of a nation’s income and wealth, the existence of social welfare systems, equal opportunities for education, protection of minority rights and the like must therefore be included in political and economic decisions.

Sustainable development is the biggest world challenge in the 21st century. Sustainability focuses on meeting today’s human needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Traditionally, the sustainability paradigm involves the interaction between people and the economic, social and environmental aspects of living.

I have a vision of more sustainable corporate management in Norway with stronger focus on ethnic diversity within corporate, governmental institutions.  We who is in c-level positions have an opportunity to boldly influence the decision-making in this.

Let me provide some context by sharing what has shaped my perspective. I am adopted from Indonesia, came to Norway at the age 6 months, grew up on the North-West coast of Norway. I am employed as the CEO of Fretex Miljø AS a company with 800 employees and 48 secondhand stores in whole of Norway. In 2016 I was recognized as one of the top 100 leaders in Norway under 40 years. http://assessit.no/glenn-hole/

Even if I am Norwegian in my mind, I am also having an Asian look and have had some experienced bitter encounters of prejudice and racism firsthand, first and foremost as an adult and not in my childhood.

As an abroad adopted in Norway in the position as a c-level executive, who not that hard to spot I make a minority, which many do not talk about in the public debate on racism and discrimination. Although I have grown used to the discomfort associated with rarely seeing c-level who look like me, I remain hopeful and optimistic that more of us will maximize and work for and choose to embrace the value of diversity and inclusion.

As a sustainable organization one must reflect the beautiful ethnic mosaic that is our world. Here are three actionable steps your organization can take to realize greater diversity.

  1. Grow comfortable with discomfort

In order to make real progress on diversifying corporate sustainability, we must be willing to step outside of our comfort zones and have honest conversations.

Candid yet open-minded dialogues in which all participants seek to learn of and empathize with one another’s experiences can shine a light on our commonalities. Organizations should make it safe to explore topics such as systemic privilege, unconscious bias and the failure to prioritize in the recruiting process — as well as individuals’ fears, misconceptions, curiosities and obstacles. These topics can be paralyzing, but we must press into these difficult spaces with vulnerability.

Communicating honestly helps develop a culture of self-enforced accountability and can catalyze radical shifts within businesses.

Let’s share opportunities with the diverse, next-generation of change agents and help catapult them into high-impact leadership.


  1. Invest in the next generation

Providing tomorrow’s diverse agents of change with access, exposure and opportunity via internships, apprenticeships and trainee programs is a simple yet meaningful way to promote diversity and unlock a more sustainable future. Let’s share opportunities with the diverse, next-generation of change agents and help catapult them into high-impact leadership.


  1. Embrace the business case

As we know very well, presenting a sound business case is integral to gaining buy-in from key internal players. Here are some convincing statistics that demonstrate the value of investing in greater diversity and inclusion. In 2015, McKinsey’s “Why Diversity Matters” report measured financial performance against diversity metrics, examining 256 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the U.K. and the U.S.

Here’s a snapshot of McKinsey’s findings:

Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

In the United States, there is a linear relationship between racial and ethnic diversity and better financial performance: For every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings before interest and taxes rise 0.8 percent.

The unequal performance of companies in the same industry and country implies that diversity is a competitive differentiator shifting market share toward more diverse companies.

There are strong correlations between diversity metrics and financial success.

Empower cultural liaisons

In order to realize a better world, it is imperative that we engage diverse peoples outside of our niche community of sustainability professionals. The lack of diversity stunts the mainstreaming of sustainability. Bringing cultural liaisons aboard the corporate sustainability teams can help bridge gaps, broaden an organization’s positive influence and reach, all while bringing in new perspectives and strategies. I’m confident that today’s c-levels executives have what it takes to rise to new levels of bold leadership, trailblazing unprecedented realities in diversity and inclusion, which will lead to greater organizational health and an even stronger movement for social and environmental change.

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