Faced with society’s growing expectations, many companies have implemented an inclusion policy to prevent discrimination. While it is becoming an essential part of companies’ social commitment, inclusion remains a vague concept for many. Why is inclusion increasingly integrated into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and management policies? What are the obstacles that need to be overcome to make inclusion a reality in all companies?
Inclusion in companies: what does it mean?
Inclusion is at the heart of corporate concerns, whether for managerial or social responsibility reasons. It aims to prevent situations of discrimination related to disability, age, social origin or culture, gender, sexual orientation, or physical appearance. This broad spectrum leads inclusion to take many forms and practices within companies.
Contrary to popular belief, inclusion is not synonymous with integration. While integration aims to integrate potentially discriminated people into the group approaching the norm, inclusion aims to consider each person as a unique case.
The notion of inclusion in society, as opposed to exclusion, arose from the theory of the sociologist Robert Castel in the 1960s. Since then, inclusion has become popular and is combined with the world of business, the digital world, sports, and school.
From an institutional point of view, inclusion is associated with the prevention of discrimination, equal opportunities, and diversity, which are issues at the heart of several international texts such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and European charters and directives. Inclusion is also cross-cutting among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved in 2015 by 193 member countries of the United Nations.
France was a pioneer at the European level, with the drafting of the first Diversity Charter in 2004. As of March 2019, the Charter had more than 3,800 voluntary signatory organizations. There are now 23 charters in Europe inspired by the French Diversity Charter.
The notion of inclusion is thus closely linked to that of diversity and gender diversity, which have long been the prerogative of the public sector and activism. This new management paradigm generates the need for companies to profoundly change their practices.
Good practices in companies
Inclusion in the workplace takes place at different levels and must be flexible to respond to the problems encountered by potentially discriminated populations. From pre-employment to taking up a position, including management, relations with stakeholders and internal communication, inclusion must be thought out beforehand and constantly adapted to the singularity of the situations that arise.
The actions observed in the business world are numerous, and sometimes go beyond regulatory obligations, such as:
- Adopting a policy of non-discrimination in hiring
- Adapt workstations to disabilities and integrate digital accessibility
- Promote soft-skills at the human resources level
- Using the protected and adapted sector via the purchasing policy
- Create spaces for dialogue to prevent the risk of discrimination, etc.
Practices related to the inclusion of seniors and people with disabilities are the most widespread. However, certain fields are not yet heavily invested by companies, such as the inclusion of young people and non-discrimination based on ethnic, social and cultural origin, or actions to reconcile private and professional life.
Inclusion to enhance its employer brand and CSR strategy
At a time when Name & Shame practices (publicly naming bad practices) are commonplace, and when the slightest corporate misstep is relayed on social networks, the employer brand must be beyond reproach. A company wishing to attract new talent and retain them must go beyond simple regulatory obligations, like a proportion of employees with disabilities. Innovating and leading by example in terms of inclusion are assets that candidates look at carefully before applying. Inclusion can also be a factor of pride in belonging and thus foster cohesion, loyalty and employee involvement.
The growing interest of employees in their company’s commitment is undeniable: 55% of employees consider a company’s social or environmental commitment to be more important than salary, according to a study by the agency Cone Communications. This statistic rises to 76% among millennials, who were born between 1980 and 2000.
CSR and sustainable development are based on three essential pillars, the 3Ps: “People, Planet, Profit”. As a concept that promotes social diversity and non-discrimination, inclusion is an indispensable tool for the social component of corporate CSR policies.
As a concept that promotes social diversity and non-discrimination, inclusion is an indispensable tool for the social component of a company’s CSR policies. But the risk of compartmentalization exists: just like CSR approaches, inclusion must be applied transversally in order to benefit the entire value chain of the company. Indeed, CSR is only effective when it involves all the stakeholders of the company: management, employees, shareholders, trade unions, business partners, etc.