Where does the time go? It’s hard to believe we at Sodexo just “gaveled out” of our 10th Diversity Business Leadership Summit, also known as the DBLS. Our goal in the beginning was to foster a better understanding of an inclusive environment and how it could benefit us as a workforce, community members, as well as a business.
Ten years later, the facts and statistics reiterate what we already knew: Diverse organizations are enjoying measurable bottom-line contributions as a result of inclusiveness.
A recent study commissioned by CalPERS, for example, found that companies with diverse boards exceeded Dow Jones and NASDAQ average returns on five years, and companies that did not have diverse boards were at a competitive disadvantage. In 2010 Calvert issued a study and found that companies demonstrating a robust commitment to diversity, in addition to competitive financial performance, are better positioned to generate long-term value for their shareholders.
Our chief diversity officer, Rohini Anand described a “cultural competence” which enhances relationships with our employees, customers and clients. Simply put, leading businesses spark greater innovation by creating a climate where individuals are engaged, feel valued, are fully included in key decisions and processes and are comfortable contributing ideas.
We were given specific examples of this practice by my friend, business partner and mentor, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who gave the keynote at our summit. Magic, the head of SodexoMAGIC reminisced passionately about having to differentiate with dedicated employees who over-serviced to prove that business could be profitable and successful in under-developed urban areas, while at the same time, benefiting the community with jobs, tax revenue and overall longer-term opportunities. Magic said simply, “doing business with minorities makes good business sense.”
He also talked passionately about his son, Earvin Johnson III, also known as E.J., recently coming out and his unwavering public support of E.J.’s decision. Magic eloquently compared his own son’s lifestyle and the need for inclusive work environments which not only welcomes a diverse workforce, but supports one as well.
I want to thank the city of Chicago for a beautiful backdrop to our milestone meeting and all of our hardworking Sodexo colleagues at Northwestern University who made this most memorable event possible.
George Chavel is president & CEO of Sodexo North America.