A few weeks ago, I was shocked by some of the responses to an article Triodos Bank Netherlands published that celebrated the contributions to biodiversity enhancement from the LGBTQI community. I was saddened by the lack of understanding that all forms of diversity are vital for the health and sustainability of society. But I was even more saddened by the blatant discrimination shown towards the LGBTQI community, and the lack of belief in equality; that all individuals should be treated with fairness and respect. Equality and inclusivity, in all forms, must be foundational principles if we want to achieve a just and sustainable future.
Like many of you reading this blog, I have witnessed the journey of family, friends and colleagues struggling to voice and be acknowledged for their gender identity, sexual orientation, neuro diversity, ethnicity and cultural heritage. There exists an unacceptable underlying sense that marginalisation and unequal opportunities for certain groups of people is the norm. Political systems are also broken and only serve to reinforce narrow-mindedness, polarisation and exclusion. This needs to change, and we must encourage those that need our support and empower them to understand that they are a valued members of our families, workplaces and communities.
From a less personal more business perspective, providing this type of support can be quite challenging. Cross-generational communications can be confusing, mixed cultural backgrounds can lead to misunderstandings and unconscious biases can lead to unintended discrimination. Creating new policies and procedures can take time and establishing new standards of behaviour that reshape the status quo isn’t always liked by all. Finding the balance between being inclusive by respecting diversity and providing appropriate support while also addressing potential concerns can be arduous.
Despite these challenges, there are some very strong and clear reasons for businesses to prioritise inclusivity as a business imperative. Those that do, typically improve decision making because multiple perspectives provide multiple ways to solve problems and can lead to new vision and insights that can drive innovation and new ways of working. Inclusive environments can also attract and retain quality talent because people want employers that treat them fairly and create advantages that translate into improved financial performance. But ultimately, it comes back to the principles of equality and inclusivity being crucial for creating a just and harmonious society in which individuals and businesses can thrive.
From a regulatory perspective, the EU directives are also clear – by 2026 40% of non-executive director posts in stock listed companies should be held by the under-represented sex, and there are penalties for non-compliance. Putting this into practice could be more difficult for smaller companies due to their lack of comparative resources. This in itself is an example of inequity – we need to find ways to consider the unique set of circumstances of smaller companies and ways to adjust the specifics of the requirements so that they are on equal footing.
As investors, we must act and apply intentionality to our investment decisions. Triodos Investment Management invests to create enduring positive change and in doing so we strive to create a fairer and more inclusive financial landscape. Several of our funds are dedicated financial inclusion for vulnerable and underserved people in developing and emerging economies. We have also started to deepen our participation in gender led investments and gender smart systems of finance with our recent membership to 2XGlobal and are exerting influence with our investors and partners to broaden their perspectives. We are contributing to shifting attitudes and reinforce the interconnectedness of social and environmental issues through our investment strategy and criteria, and for stock-listed investments by exercising our shareholder rights and engaging on board diversity.
I encourage all investors, individual and professional, to consider their investment intentions and decisions. We need to keep in mind the opportunity to advocate and promote diversity, and by doing so, we will stimulate and encourage a more equitable and inclusive world for everyone.