2023 Strategic ERG Leadership Summit: Doubling Down on the Impact of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
How do organizations continue to fuel innovation and drive growth?
Regardless of industry or sector, this question is always top of mind as organizations strive to deliver value for their customers through new ideas, products and processes. And there is always one common denominator for success: People. More specifically, a highly-engaged, high-performing team with diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
This vital topic was at the heart of the 2023 Strategic Employee Resource Group (ERG) Leadership Summit organised by the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business’ Centre for Effective Organizations hosted by presenting sponsor, Ecolab. Together, nearly 200 ERG leaders and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) professionals from more than 50 U.S. companies explored the pivotal role of ERGs in driving innovation and fostering growth.
During the event, Dr. Sharoni Little, affiliated research scientist at the Centre for Effective Organizations and CEO for The Strategist Company, said it best: “Business starts and ends with people.”
As vice president of Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) at a company whose purpose is protecting people and the resources vital to life, Dr. Little’s words were an important reminder and validation of Ecolab’s core DE&I tenets – a commitment to creating safe spaces for diverse expression and valuing inclusive, people-driven leadership.
ERGs, as vibrant communities of individuals with shared identities or interests, play a crucial role in driving a sense of engagement and empowerment. For nearly two decades, Ecolab’s ERGs have provided personal and professional development programmes and events, actively shaping Ecolab's workplace culture. They help attract, engage, retain and grow the best talent, fostering a culture of belonging through meaningful connections and supporting enterprise initiatives. Since 2019, the company has grown the ERG membership base by 21%, with members located in more than 60 countries worldwide.
Over the years, I've observed the company's evolution, particularly among our top leaders, with regard to DE&I and our ERGs. In 2017, Ecolab established the Executive Diversity & Inclusion Council with the primary objective to elevate the company’s commitment to building diverse teams and an inclusive culture. The Council – made up of 12 senior business and function leaders from across the enterprise – have embarked on a journey to allyship to broaden their understanding of the barriers and challenges faced by underrepresented groups and using key learnings to inform their work in developing strategies for the company.
To achieve this objective, the Council engages with Ecolab’s ERGs, above all, as strategic business partners to evaluate and explore growth opportunities and foster a sense of belonging within the company. ERGs fuel innovation by encouraging unconventional thinking and problem-solving approaches. This, in turn, equips Ecolab with a competitive advantage in today’s evolving business landscape.
Overall, businesses are made by people and thrive when those people are engaged, empowered and enabled to contribute their unique perspectives. This year’s summit provided an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of ERGs at organizations throughout the U.S. as well as recognize that championing DE&I is not the responsibility of a select few—it's a shared commitment. Something we embody at Ecolab because it’s core to our values and also good business.
Convening this summit with the University of Southern California is only the beginning. I look forward to ongoing discussions and further collaboration with community partners and DE&I advocates at the next summit. And I know that, at Ecolab, we will continue to lean into the incredible strength of our own ERGs, leveraging the diverse perspectives of members to continue to innovate, create value, drive growth and deliver positive impact in the world by protecting people and the resources vital to life.