Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies represent a critical organizational opportunity to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace. As businesses worldwide grapple with DEI-related challenges, it remains essential to understand broader industry trends and how companies can strategize appropriately.
A Global Perspective on DEI Strategies
DEI strategies are not one-size-fits-all. Getting it right means adapting to the cultural, legal, and societal nuances of each region. Understanding these differences is critical for organizations striving to foster inclusivity and equity across their global footprint.
Companies must tailor their DEI initiatives to the specific needs of each region. It’s not merely a matter of compliance with local laws but about creating workplaces where all employees, regardless of their cultural, socio-economic, educational background, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability status, religious beliefs, geographical location, race, military or veteran status, and family status, feel valued, respected, and empowered.
Below we highlight just a few examples of what this looks like in action:
United States: Stringent Enforcement of DEI Laws
In the United States, DEI practices are influenced by a robust legal framework. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, for instance, prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these regulations and can impose stringent penalties for non-compliance. This legal environment has driven many U.S. companies to prioritize DEI to avoid legal repercussions. As a result, they often adopt comprehensive DEI programs, focusing on representation, pay equity, and inclusive hiring practices.
United Kingdom: A Cautionary Approach to DEI
In contrast, the United Kingdom tends to employ a more cautionary approach to DEI. For example, while the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination based on characteristics such as age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation, the enforcement mechanism differs from the U.S. Instead of immediately imposing penalties, UK authorities often issue warnings and recommendations. This approach encourages organizations to rectify DEI issues voluntarily, emphasizing self-correction and cooperation rather than punitive measures.
Europe: Focus on Gender Equality
Within Europe, DEI strategies vary by country. Some Scandinavian countries, like Sweden and Norway, are renowned for their emphasis on gender equality in the workplace. Norway, for example, mandates that women must constitute at least 40 percent of the boards of public limited liability companies. In contrast, Southern European countries may prioritize different aspects of diversity, such as ethnicity or age. Organizations operating across Europe must navigate these distinct regional priorities.
Asia: Cultural Sensitivity and Inclusivity
Asia presents a unique DEI landscape, heavily influenced by cultural norms and traditions. In Japan, for instance, conformity is valued, and discussions about diversity can differ from Western contexts. Companies operating in Asia often emphasize cultural sensitivity and aim to create environments where employees from diverse backgrounds can thrive. This may involve adapting global DEI programs to suit local cultural norms and expectations.
A Greater Commitment to ESG and Sustainability is Necessary
Although regional and cultural variations exist, ultimately, a global commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Sustainability has opened doors for more detailed DEI reporting.
This commitment has established mandates for DEI programs with buy-in from senior management. Such mandates emphasize the importance of setting priority areas and understanding an organization’s current position to establish robust DEI programs.
Your DEI Journey: More Than Just Initiatives
Strong Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies involve a multifaceted journey that extends far beyond mere initiatives. Businesses committed to fostering inclusivity and equity must take a comprehensive approach.
Here’s an expanded look at several examples:
1. eLearning: Building DEI Knowledge Online
eLearning is a fundamental component of a robust DEI program. These are online platforms that provide DEI training and awareness to employees at all levels. Through interactive modules, videos, and quizzes, for instance, employees can deepen their understanding of DEI concepts, learn about unconscious bias, and gain insights into building an inclusive workplace.
2. Workshops: In-depth Exploration of DEI Topics
Workshops are vital for delving deeper into DEI topics. These sessions can be conducted in person or virtually, depending on organizational preferences. Workshops often involve facilitated discussions, case studies, and role-playing exercises that allow employees to engage with DEI issues actively. They provide a forum for open dialogue and learning, helping individuals gain practical skills and insights.
3. Offline Materials: Tangible Resources for Awareness
Offline materials play a role in extending DEI awareness. These print resources, such as brochures in a break room, posters in an elevator, and pamphlets passed out in a meeting, can be distributed across the organization. They serve as tangible reminders of the company’s commitment to DEI and can highlight important messages, statistics, and resources to promote inclusivity.
4. Steering Committee Meetings: Driving DEI Strategy
Regular meetings of a DEI Steering Committee are essential for formulating and refining DEI targets. This cross-functional group typically includes representatives from various departments, including HR, Compliance, and EHS. The committee’s role is to assess progress, identify areas for improvement, and ensure that DEI initiatives align with the organization’s broader goals.
5. DEI Ambassadors: Champions Within the Organization
DEI Ambassadors are individuals who voluntarily champion DEI within the organization. They serve as role models and advocates for inclusivity. DEI Ambassadors are often passionate about driving change and can organize events, lead discussions, and provide guidance to colleagues, fostering a culture of inclusion from within.
6. Inter-departmental Partnerships: Collaborative Integration of DEI
DEI strategies are most effective when integrated across all aspects of the organization. Inter-departmental partnerships are collaborations between various departments, including HR, compliance, and EHS, to ensure DEI principles are woven into the fabric of the company. These partnerships facilitate the alignment of policies, practices, and training efforts, making DEI a part of daily operations.
Incorporating these various elements into a comprehensive DEI strategy enables organizations to go beyond surface-level initiatives and foster a culture of genuine inclusivity and equity. It’s a journey that requires commitment, collaboration, and continuous improvement.
7. Progressive Family Support Programs: Extending Inclusivity Beyond the Workplace
Inclusivity extends beyond the workplace to employees’ personal lives. Progressive Family Support Programs are initiatives designed to support employees and their families. These can include benefits such as parental leave policies, childcare support, and resources for caregivers. By addressing the needs of employees outside of work, organizations contribute to a more inclusive overall experience.
Two Trailblazers: Imerys and Ferring
Among the many businesses embarking on this journey, SAI360 has had the privilege of working with two in particular that really stand out for their successful and innovative approaches: Imerys for designing and acting on a forward-facing blueprint for change, and Ferring for making DEI a part of its cultural fabric. While their strategies differ, their shared mission is evident: to foster a workplace where everyone feels valued and included.
Imerys: A global leader in mineral-based specialties, Imerys has been proactive in its DEI initiatives. Their 2025 sustainability roadmap, which includes the Group Diversity Equity Inclusion Index, is a testament to their commitment. Said Ioannis Lagiopoulos, Group Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Manager at Imerys, ”When we reached out to training providers in the market, we knew we needed short virtual training courses that would have a global approach, be available in multiple languages and customizable. SAI360 Learning ticked those boxes.”
“We’re committed to this continuous improvement journey of customized, global, as well as deep-dive DE&I training courses for specific audiences to further strengthen the Group culture of conscious inclusion and Imerys values,” he added. “With our commitment, team, and strategy in place, I’m excited to see how we build on the strong learning foundation we’ve created with the assistance of SAI360.”
Ferring International Center SA: As a privately-owned pharmaceutical company specializing in reproductive medicine and maternal health, Ferring’s DEI strategy is structured around three core pillars: embracing diverse talent and enhancing representation, creating equal opportunities for professional development, and nurturing a culture of inclusivity and connections within the organization.
Said Mary Knight, Head of Global Ethics at Ferring International Center SA, “DEI is not a new program. It’s not a buzzword, it’s really anchored in our core values and expectations of behavior, and that’s very much how I’m trying to communicate this to the organization.”
Final Thoughts on DEI Strategies
Ongoing cross-industry and global commitment to ESG principles and sustainability has paved the way for more comprehensive DEI reporting and established a clear mandate for DEI programs, earning crucial buy-in from senior management. DEI is a multifaceted and evolving concept, necessitating a strategic approach that prioritizes areas of focus and evaluates the organization’s current standing to establish robust programs. As this journey unfolds, it becomes evident that change in behavior and organizational culture is gradual, requiring persistence and dedication.
To be truly effective, DEI campaigns must seamlessly integrate into daily work, potentially but certainly not solely through mandatory training, to ensure high participation levels. Furthermore, DEI initiatives have to align with the expectations of new generations and position a business as a trailblazer, emphasizing ethics and values as a unique selling point and attracting cutting-edge talent. This way, DEI is not just an aspiration but a powerful driver of progress and prosperity for forward-thinking organizations.
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