(Adapted from Trailblazers: How Top Business Leaders Accelerate Results through Inclusion and Diversity )

Linking Corporate Diversity Efforts with Community Engagement to Yield Business Results

Where is the link between corporate diversity and community efforts? Twelve award-winning diversity Trailblazers see many.

According to Steve Bucherati, Chief Diversity Officer at The Coca Cola Company, community involvement is an integral component of strengthening the brand. He explains, “Our brands are for everyone; it doesn’t matter whether you’re the President of the United States or the average Jane or Joe on the street. . . . You can’t buy ‘better’ Coke, no matter how rich. . . or who you are. The brand is truly inclusive. . . [s]o we extrapolate from that and say, well that’s what we ought to be about as an organization. We ought to be as inclusive as our brands. We ought to be a company for everybody no matter who you are, what your background is, and what your experiences are. Then we take that mentality and try to drive that down into our marketplace, workplace, and community strategies.”

Michael Collins of American Airlines expresses it this way: “At [our company], diversity and inclusion [are not areas that we consider to be] separate from what we’re trying to accomplish in satisfying our customers, engaging our employees, participating in the community, and being a good corporate citizen. We talk about diversity as a continuum rather than an ending destination. It is something [for which] everyone is responsible, especially our leaders. [In order to be a good leader], you need to be able to lead diversity and create [inclusive] environments.”

Some businesses have very specific community goals, while others support community projects as they surface because they generally see it as the “right thing to do.” TrailBlazers help their organizations develop and clarify community involvement goals, and then they guide their leaders as they support the community agencies and projects that are in alignment with the company’s mission and values. Instead of using the scattered, “here today, gone tomorrow” approach, TrailBlazers help their companies focus their efforts and resources—which creates the ability to measure outcomes and make adjustments where needed.  The more the company can develop a concentrated effort for its community involvement, the better its results will be.

Our Community Engagement Model illustrates four critical components of an effective community involvement process.

  • First, the company must become clear about their brand and their marketplace.
  • This then allows collaboration in the goal-setting process among the chief diversity officer, business group leaders, and the corporate community relations department.
  • Once goals are set, communication, recognition, and rewards for involvement can be disseminated throughout the organization.

For example, Dell contributes in the communities where their employees live and work by developing community programs that promote digital inclusion and close the gap on the digital divide. “We are committed to the belief that people around the world should have access to technology to learn critical skills and enhance their lives,” says chief diversity officer Gil Casellas.

Similarly, having built a global business on improving the effectiveness of written communication, Pitney Bowes has a vital interest in literacy and education. Their leadership believes that, by supporting literacy and education programs, the company can improve countless lives and strengthen the fabric of communities everywhere they are involved.

Note that nowhere in these focus statements is there a mention of diversity and inclusion. There is no need, because these are overall business statements where diversity and inclusion is implicit.