There is a raw silver lining to the shockwaves that have been sent through the world after the brutal killing of George Floyd on the 25th of May. We’ve been moved by the huge response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the acknowledgment that systematic racism concerns all of us. There is a growing global awareness that racism is deeply rooted in our Western societies. Along with a lot of other companies, we too like to start by stating we wholeheartedly condemn racism and discrimination of any kind. At the same time, we feel ashamed it has taken us so long to publicly speak up and actively join the fight against this systematic problem.

As a sustainability consultancy firm, we are passionate about making the world a better, fairer, and more sustainable place. We see business as a catalyst for change. Our daily activities focus on finding the right balance between social prosperity, environmental protection, and economic growth through and with our clients. After all, this is what sustainability is about. But when it comes to social issues, how “woke” are we really?

As we educate ourselves on the topic, engage in conversations, and brainstorm on pragmatic approaches (our forte 😉) to defeat racism, we‘ve been faced with a growing amount of (uncomfortable) questions and confronting discoveries. By sharing this, we want to contribute to the dialogue in our field of work and take the necessary action to fight racism and discrimination.

So here it goes. Hi. We are (Sustainalize): a group of young, highly educated white people. We are working in the field of corporate sustainability, which is mainly… white. During the ten years of our existence, the number of colored people we’ve employed can be counted on one hand. Had we consistently been aware of institutional racism and felt the urge to act, would we have more color in our workplace today?

It makes us think: how meaningful is this statement in our organization to begin with? How aware are we of our own racist and biased thoughts and actions, collectively as well as on an individual level? And do we have the courage to take the appropriate actions to eliminate it? What can we do to create more inclusion and diversity in our own organization and in our field of work?

Discrimination and diversity are topics that have been high on the agenda for some time now, and regularly discussed at our lunch table. Various attempts to encourage diversity and inclusion in our workplace have been made over the years. We offered positions to people with poor employment prospects, for example. Moreover, we wrote a manifesto in which we call for linking the Sustainable Development Goals and LGBTI inclusion in the workplace, by determining priorities, maturity, and setting goals towards increased LGBTI inclusion. But our approach often turned out to be ad hoc and somewhat unstructured, mainly because we didn’t fully grasp the complexity of shaping a healthy and culturally diverse company. Where to begin?

We want to start by being honest about who we are as an organization. By continuing to educate ourselves. And by keeping this conversation alive. We want to make some serious changes.

This is what we’ll do to begin with:

  • Organize internal sessions in which we challenge ourselves and each other to raise more knowledge, awareness, and experiences on the topic of racism, discrimination and diversity and inclusion within our environment;
  • Rethink and redesign our HR policies: train ourselves to recognize and prevent biases, and take a more proactive approach in attracting talents with different cultures and backgrounds;
  • Be more outspoken on the topic of racism, diversity & inclusion in our interactions with our clients, and support them with the same challenges we are facing as a company;
  • Ensure together with our partners that the events we (co)host become more colorful and diverse in their organization, presenters and guests. And free up room for discussion and dialogue on topics such as racism, discrimination, diversity and inclusion;
  • Continue to work on awareness and initiatives around diversity like the SDG LGBTI Manifesto.

#Let’s be honest. What do you think? Thoughts, suggestions, and critical views are most welcome. We are in this together. As we’d like to say: dare to shape the future, and let it be a fair one, for everyone.

We’ll keep you posted!