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Midway Through 2020 - How Have The Trends for D&I Fared?

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Inclusive Matters predicted the trends for Diversity & Inclusion within European companies during 2020. Check out the Chief Inclusion Officer's thought piece here. How have a pandemic, a global recession and a cultural awakening affected these trends?


More inclusive leaders to come

Undeterred by lockdowns and social distancing caused by COVID-19, many companies upheld their plan to create D&I leadership positions. Noteworthy announcements include:

  • Ørsted (DK): The world’s most sustainable company in 2020 created a global D&I role

  • Barry Callebaut Group (CH): The leading cocoa manufacturer built a global D&I role

  • Publicis Groupe (FR): The oldest advertising firm, added a European D&I position

  • ISS (DK): Designed its first Diversity leadership role for its North American affiliates

  • Hitachi (JP): Set up an EMEA D&I leadership role

  • Netflix (US): Establishing a European D&I leadership function

Future proof inclusion strategies in economic slowdowns

In June the World Bank assessed that, "COVID-19 will plunge the global economy into the worst recession since World War II". As business leaders scramble to build recovery plans, a growing number of companies are aligning Diversity & Inclusion with their overall strategies.


Senior, strategic D&I leaders engage and spar from the top. This approach creates a holistic perspective about D&I throughout an organization. In addition, a highly visible D&I function is able to infuse purpose driven and societal impact initiatives into to the business - which positively connects profit with purpose. Numerous European companies are now upgrading their current D&I roles. This is done by repositioning D&I leadership roles to report directly to a member of the Executive Management team.


Recent and notable repositionings are:

  • PMI (CH): New Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) is a member of Executive Management

  • Facebook (US): The CDO now reports to the COO, rather than the VP of HR

  • Nielsen (US) - CEO David Kenny named himself Chief Diversity Officer


Ripple effect from inclusion practices in the US

Escalating tensions involving systemic prejudice erupted in the United States in Late May. For the first time, the establishment - those in the majority and that have positions of power and influence - acknowledged that pervasive, insidious systemic racism occurs in all parts of the society. Furthermore, this group recognized that institutional discrimination continues to nourish their own privilege and the business sector.


Consumers demanded that companies take a stand against systemic discrimination. Within hours of the nationwide demonstrations, CEO's of American companies began addressing the public with their statements and clear actions to better their internal and external communities. The response has been unprecedented. Other CEO's are showing their support for diversity & inclusion through joint pledges. A pledge is a collective promise among businesses to improve gender balance, diversity & inclusion.

European companies have had a detached reaction to the wave of social change that is hitting its shores. Fewer companies are making a statement or providing clear actions against systemic discrimination. We can highlight:

  • H&M (SE): One of the first foreign companies to make a global statement and donate to affected communities.

  • Adidas (DE): Dedicating 4 years to and investing $120 million in affected communities AND filling 30% of its current job openings with qualified, underrepresented applicants

  • LEGO (DK): Investing $4 million for educating children on equality


Pledges for Inclusion & Diversity have become popular for European companies.

CEO alliances include:

  • The LEAD Network CEO Pledge (NL): 34 signatories from the retail sector who promote gender diversity and commitment to inclusion

  • The Diversity Council CEO Pledge (DK): 19 Danish signatories accelerating gender diversity and commitment to inclusion

  • Open letter #SayHisName: George Floyd (UK): 200 advertising bosses pledge to support black talent


The Pivot From Diversity to Inclusion

Uncertainty and change are the common denominators for business this year. The feeling of exclusion among employees while working remotely has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdowns. Social upheaval in the US has reminded Europe that diversity is far more than a gender issue. Leaders are now navigating their business through 3 global crises. To do so successfully, they will need to blend new perspectives and solutions from diverse sources - the definition of inclusion.

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