By Dawnielle Tellez, Corporate Responsibility Intern
The term “sustainability” can be complex and take on different meanings. The most common definition of sustainability comes from the 1987 UN Brundtland Commission:
“Development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
For many in my generation, Generation Y, more commonly known as millennials, sustainability extends far beyond just meeting people’s needs – it’s our way of life. We’re the most racially diverse and environmentally driven generation to date; which transforms not only the way we choose to live day-to-day, but also the way we strive to contribute in the workplace. In a recent survey, Deloitte discovered that more than 70 percent of millennials are more likely than previous generations to focus on teamwork with an emphasis on collaboration and business impact.
So what does it mean for corporate sustainability when millennials are bringing the most racially diverse, environmentally conscious, impact-driven teams to the table?
For me, it means continuing the work I began in graduate school. I am a founding member of a women’s leadership group aimed at providing skills-building, learning and networking opportunities for the next generation of environmental sustainability professionals. From salary negotiation workshops to lectures on recognizing and overcoming gender biases in the workplace, our group has begun to fill the information gap around diversity and sustainability through actionable recommendations. I expect that other young professionals will continue to join my classmates and me as we enter the workforce in asking more from our peers, employers and community leaders to address this key area.
Affecting meaningful change through sustainability and diversity are not merely trends but needs when millennials are key employees, customers, stakeholders and increasingly, managers.
Here are three reasons why diversity is important to sustainability:
Diversity is embedded in the definition of sustainability
- Sustainability is both global and local in scope Environmental impacts are as global as carbon footprint and as local as litter in our neighborhoods. There are so many ways diversity comes into the picture as we think about today’s businesses. From the footprint of global supply chains to multinationals’ locations in communities around the world, companies are intrinsically linked to the people they employ and places in which they operate.
- Environmental justice and sustainability The costs and benefits associated with environmental impacts aren’t always equally distributed among people. According to the National Resources Defense Council, people who live, work and play in America’s most polluted environments are commonly people of color and disadvantaged communities. Increasingly, businesses have the duty to help reconstruct how resources – and environmental impacts – are shared among communities.
Diversity adds value across multiple perspectives
- Strength in diverse voices and views The more representation, inclusion and engagement there is in the workplace, the stronger the outcomes. As the number of diverse stakeholders grows for global businesses, so too does their corporate responsibility team’s need to account for and incorporate these diverse perspectives.
Diversity enriches collaboration
- Corporations, nonprofits and individuals can partner to better serve communities When environmental progress stalls at a national level, creative and dedicated partnerships across sectors can step in to fill the void. Bringing together the diversity in opinions, approaches and goals of various organizations and individuals can help bridge the divide at all levels – local, state, national and international. Caesars Entertainment is one of the companies taking the lead to embed sustainability across its business. Through innovative programs like CodeGreen at Home, Caesars incentivizes its employees to practice sustainable actions at both the workplace and at home.
Corporate responsibility is evolving with underpinnings of diversity throughout. As millennials continue to rise into the workforce, I hope we’ll continue driving this evolution. It’s more important now than ever – a recent GreenBiz article highlights challenges associated with creating more racial diversity in sustainability leadership roles. Truly, diversity in corporate sustainability should be at the center of the strategy as companies strive to make a difference in supply chains and communities in partnership with suppliers, customers, partners and employees.
Dawnielle is supporting Caesars Entertainment’s corporate responsibility team during as she completes her degree in Master of Environmental Science and Management at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara.