The Changing Face of EHS: The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in EHS Workforces

Diversity and inclusion are important for any working environment, and the EHS industry has been making progress to become a more diverse and inclusive industry. Still, a 2017 study found that 84% of EHS employees were men, while 64% of the workplace is between the ages of 50-69. This raises a persistent yellow flag for organizations…especially since diverse organizations perform better than their less diverse peers, underscoring the morale reasons to adjust, with financial ones.

Where Are We Today?

A recent Avetta marketplace survey asked respondents about their organization’s stance on diversity and inclusion:

Avetta Marketplace Diversity Survey By The Numbers:

  • 82% of respondents believed that their company employed a diverse workforce, 6% were unsure and 12% did not believe their organization employed enough diversity. 
  • 72% thought their organization provided equal opportunity for advancement regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, disability; 7% were unsure and 20% thought it did not. 
  • 70% thought diversity was important for their organization, with 47% thinking that it showed a proactive approach and got ahead of diversity issues
  • 70% of respondents said that their organization provided diversity training for employees and contractors.
  • 31% of the respondents stated that their company provided training in one language other than English, 23% in two or more, and 45% said that it provided training only in English. 

More than 80% believing that their organization employed a diverse workforce is positive, however it’s clear that there is room to grow.  When  20% of individuals believe opportunity for advancement is limited, the company suffers a productivity impact. English is the required language in most US-based organizations, however the lack of training in additional languages (like Spanish) also begs the question – how much do diversity issues impact safety?

Diversity and Inclusion: Not Just About “Checking the Box”

We mentioned earlier that diversity and inclusion isn’t just good for morale, it also makes a serious impact on a company’s bottom line. 

Recruitment and job satisfaction web site Glassdoor found that 57% of employees and 67% of job seekers consider diversity an important element of their workplace when evaluating companies and job offers. Job seekers, consultants, and candidates you are actively recruiting care about the culture of diversity in your organization. 

Additionally, consider these studies that have quantified the benefits of a diverse workforce:

  • A Boston Consulting Group study found a strong, statistically significant, positive relationship between diversity and corporate innovation.
  • Harvard Business Review found that diverse companies were 70% more likely to capture a new market. 
  • According to Deloitte, when employees perceive their organization to be committed to diversity and inclusion, and they actually feel included, they are 80% more likely to rank their employer as high performing.
  • McKinsey finds that for every 10 percent increase in ethnic diversity on senior boards, US companies see a 0.8% increase in earnings before interest and tax (EBIT). In the UK, the linear growth rate for every 10 percent improvement on diversity resulted in a 3.5% increase in EBITDA! Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to yield higher revenue, while gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to yield higher revenue.  
  • The consulting organization studies show trends within the last five years, but even a study published 2009 by the American Sociological Review found that companies with the highest percentage in racial or gender diversity have higher sales revenue, more customers, higher than average market share, and profitability.

Diversity Matters, and EHS Has A Way to Go. Where Do We Start?

Clearly, diversity matters in the workplace, and EHS has a long way to go. Last year, the National Association for environmental, health and safety, and sustainability (NAEM) published a diversity in EHS&S white-paper with practical advice for organizations looking to become more diverse. Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Acknowledge that diversity doesn’t just mean “Race and Gender”. Age, sexual orientation, language, disability, and even different life experiences can all contribute to a more inclusive and diverse team.
  2. Build a business case for change, and engage your team in it. Set diversity goals and strategies with your team, just as if you would set revenue goals and targets with their inputs. Actively involve the team in making decisions, and listen to feedback on how they think the organization can become more diverse.
  3. Guarantee buy-in by showing the benefits for everyone. A better, more diverse team benefits everyone in the organization, not just those in the minority. Ensure buy-in from everyone on the team by highlighting how focus on diversity will improve everyone’s work experience. 
  4. Drive engagement across all employees. Create opportunity for your workforce to network and connect, over and above the immediate team members. Learning and growth across different groups is a key driver of the success of diverse and inclusive organizations. Foster opportunities for employees to connect and learn from each other.
  5. Adapt. Becoming more inclusive is literally an exercise in change for most organizations. Embrace the changes and don’t be afraid to adopt radical changes in the interest of inclusion. You may find yourself adapting to accommodate the need of one person, but you may also find that being responsive to that one person also meets the need of others who did not have the courage to mention it.
  6. Build awareness and acceptance of different paths to the same destination. Different groups react in different ways to the same issue or need but they achieve the same end result.

Walk the Walk

At YellowBird, we strive to create a diverse team and environment. 50% of our founding team members are female, including co-founder Michelle Tinsley. Our team is represented by multiple different age cohorts, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. We are active in industry diversity groups such as the National Association of Women in Construction, and believe that the things that make us different make us better. EHS is making strides to bring more diversity into the workplace, and we’re excited to be a part of the movement.  Diversity really stresses a growth mindset- including all employees in the business.  By getting the best out of employees you hear all the options and can choose the best case for success.