The organizational shift to adopting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies is on the rise in hopes of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce and satisfying the social impact expectations of investors and country leaders. According to a 2021 report, 71% of recreational investors, globally, said they want to make a positive social impact as part of their investment objectives, and the response rate for millennials was even higher (75%). Additionally, significant amount of research has linked diversity to innovation and profitability. Due to these benefits, organizations have recently begun to invest more in their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
Some organizations have been successful, while others are struggling. Although well-intentioned, these initiatives often fail at integrating new values into the organization's culture. When an organization institutes a vague equity initiative, the benefit is nominal, leaving hundreds of employees from underserved communities at risk. It also places the organization at risk of losing trust with employees, customers, and society. On a national scale, hundreds of thousands of employees still face oppression and trauma with faulty equity initiatives leaving their needs and communities behind.
Every organization depends on its people to succeed; however, not all organizations have people-centered strategies that prioritize supporting, connecting, and engaging their workforce and communities. Therefore, it is vital for organizations to create a culture that fosters more equitable outcomes and implement people-first or people-centered strategies through an equity lens. An equity lens is a transformative tool proven to aid in shifting an organization to run more equitable processes, services, and programs with data-driven outcomes.
People First Strategies through an Equity Lens
A people-first strategy developed with an equity lens may include plans for:
By looking through an equity lens, we can better identify complex barriers that would otherwise remain unaddressed. Applying an equity lens includes identifying the governance structures, data, performance management, technology, policies, and procedures of a business. Each of these factors provides the opportunity for improvement, especially those that put people from underserved communities at risk or further disrupt their experience. Since all organizations are built differently, each requires its people-first strategy and transformation plan to improve performance while preserving the existing and effective initiative. In transforming an organization’s culture, a people-first strategy should support the inclusivity of all people from underserved communities and incorporate these values into the day-to-day engagements between coworkers and leadership. It is crucial to a company's culture to ensure all members of an organization have a conscious shift to acknowledge the importance of compassion and thoughtfulness throughout their decision-making and interactions.
Furthermore, each underserved employee or group should feel able to communicate with coworkers of authority. Leaders must also be open, transparent, and willing to accept prior failures but with a focus on the future. In the end, the entire organization will have undergone a mindset shift. This type of transformation is not always easy. It requires a more profound internal shift than publicly displaying slogans or posters of people from underserved communities, it is about action.
“By prioritizing people first, the Army is signaling that investing resources in our people initiatives is the most effective way to accomplish our constant mission ...”
The Power of People Strategies
To truly serve all people in an organization, it is time to start analyzing each aspect of the business through a social equity lens and use this information to implement people-first strategies. The benefits to an organization include:
 Everyone is on the ESG investing Bandwagon.
 People First: Insights from the Army’s Chief of Staff | Article | The United States Army