Impactfully No. 93: DEI Rebranded

You may be seeing less of DEI and ESG as companies rebrand their corporate social responsibility efforts, and tiny home sites are showing promising effects on the homelessness crisis facing America's cities.

Impactfully No. 93: DEI Rebranded
Photo by Aditya Vyas / Unsplash

As the saying goes: no good deed goes unpunished.

In the past few years, companies have embraced policies to diversify workforces and become better stewards in their communities. Unfortunately, they've faced increasing resistance, both legal and political, and are starting to rebrand those efforts. You may be seeing less of DEI and ESG, but they're still around – more on that below.

This week's featured job – and company, really – takes us to a major sustainability consultancy with a range of opportunities depending on your level of experience. Plus, you can brush up on your social enterprise models using the learning resources from MovingWorlds and Acumen in our weekly resource. Off we go!

~ Greg

What we're reading

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (or DEI) surged into the public consciousness after George Floyd's murder in 2020, with companies investing more heavily into these areas than ever before. More recently, DEI is facing a backlash, fueled in part by Supreme Court decisions last year and conservative sentiment. Companies are rebranding their DEI efforts, but they're not abandoning them. (WaPo)

  • To get a sense of this trend, Littler Mendelson surveyed 320 executives about their DEI efforts after the Supreme Court rulings. 91% would continue to prioritize DEI, and 57% had expanded DEI programming.
  • What is changing is the way they describe it to shareholders. Instead of ESG goals – that's environmental, social, and governance – they're changing to "People & Planet." Instead of "representation," which evokes diversity efforts, they're switching to "talent." The objectives are similar behind the scenes, but these companies are trying to avoid the legal and political fallout.
    • I tend to think this is the way to go for the long term. Ultimately, you're looking for a culture of inclusion and better stewardship of the planet. That's a common ground that most people can get behind.
  • The terms DEI and ESG have become stigmatized to certain people. Rallying behind their intent rather than their "brands" may be a way to preserve the culture they helped create.

Cities around the country are exploring a variety of ways to help unhoused people find their way into permanent homes. One of those strategies is to build up mass tiny home sites – tiny homes, mind you, not tiny sites – instead of sending people to shelters. One example of this in Portland is showing a much higher transition rate into permanent housing. (Oregonian)

  • The homes live up to the name – they're 10' x 10' and include a bed, HVAC, and a door lock. At the Clinton Triangle site, there are 203 residents in homes like these.
  • According to a study of these homes by Portland State University, "36% of the county tiny home village residents and 16% of the city’s safe rest village residents moved on to permanent housing." That's compared to 12% who made the transition from a shelter.
    • The city offers more recent data, however, and of the 459 people who left one of 8 tiny home sites, 69% of them transitioned into permanent housing. That's an enormous difference in effectiveness.
  • The big question: why does this make such a difference?
    • Right now, it's speculative. People tend to stay in mass shelters for a shorter period of time, which is one possibility. They get more privacy in a tiny home as well.
    • My somewhat naive take: a tiny home looks a lot more like independent living than a shelter does, which might provide more stability in the short term and minimize the leap into long-term housing.
  • Let's just hope the trend continues – not just in Portland, but in other cities as well.

Job of the week

We're going global for this week's featured role at Anthesis, which is a sustainability consultancy with 1,300 employees working in 42 countries around the world. this the answer to your job search, too?

They have a bunch of consulting opportunities in areas like climate, carbon accounting, and climate risk, but I'd like to draw your attention to this Go To Market Manager role as well. They're looking for someone with mid-level experience in sales, specifically for the sustainability space. If you're a bit earlier in your career, check out their full list of opportunities as well.

Community roundup

  • Pandemic-era grants for K-12 schools are set to end soon, and will likely culminate in layoffs for teachers, many of whom were hired on grant funding to overcome learning gaps. (CNN)
  • Have you seen pictures of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway? The people behind it have been honored as laureates for the 2024 World Food Prize. (Euronews)
  • The number of Certified B Corps has grown by more than 30% each of the past two years and sits at over 8,000 companies around the world. (Inc)
  • A startup backed by Bill Gates has raised $26.5 million for a livestock vaccine that reduces methane emissions. (Axios)
  • Microplastics on your mind? Scientists are turning to algae to produce a plant-based polymer alternative to petroleum-based plastics. Bacteria help the resulting polyurethane break down like leaves or wood. (ABC News)
  • Speaking of sustainable materials, a partnership in the U.K. between the Salvation Army and Project Plan B is recycling polyester garments into new plastic pellets that can be reused. (Guardian)
    • This is reminiscent of the Goodwill project I wrote about in Impactfully No. 86. In that instance, they were recycling toys and other large plastics you can't put out with your usual recycling.
  • Data centers are driving significant electricity demand, particularly in support of blockchain and artificial intelligence. What I was more surprised to discover is that water consumption is also an issue – some data centers can use up to 5 million gallons of water a day and have contributed to drought concerns in parts of the country. (Grist)

Hot job opportunities

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Looking for a job? Submit your resume to our talent pool, and let social impact companies come to you.

Resource of the week

I came across MovingWorlds on LinkedIn a few years ago and have kept an eye on them ever since. They offer a bunch of ways for individuals and companies to grow their social impact, but I'd like to point you to two offerings in particular.

If you have at least two years of experience, you can sign up for the TRANSFORM Support Hub that connects professionals to volunteer opportunities at social enterprises around the world. They also have a list of curated resources, particularly online courses, that can help you grow your social impact bonafides before changing careers.

Some of those courses come from Acumen, which is a major player in the impact investor space. Personally, I would suggest checking out this course on Business Models for Social Enterprise. Although aimed at social entrepreneurs, it will give you a strong understanding of the ways that companies can structure themselves to make a difference.

Test your knowledge

Last week, we turned to current events and the campus protests over the war in Gaza. The protests made headlines, but so did the response – police action in response to protests at Columbia sparked a wave of activism across the country and a series of arrests.

I mentioned I would look for the most recent numbers I could find, and the New York Times delivered: as of May 13, there have been over 2,800 confirmed arrests(!), and you can see a breakdown by university here.

This week, I've gone digging for deforestation data. I may not look like the Lorax (yet), but I'd like to speak for the trees with this week's trivia question:

Is the rate of deforestation increasing or decreasing globally? Bonus points if you know which region is the current hotspot.

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!

I am researching ways to make my sparkling water habit more sustainable. Got any recommendations? Send me your fizzy faves. You can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.

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Jamie Larson