Build a Just and Inclusive Economy

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Build a workforce that, at all levels, reflects the intersectional diversity of the community, achieving gender parity by 2030. Foster a culture of anti-discrimination and create an inclusive workplace that empowers and invests in the advancement of women, people of color and other historically disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

Companies commit to intersectional equity, diversity and inclusion standards across their workforces, including commitments to achieve gender parity and full representation of historically disadvantaged and underrepresented groups across all levels of the organization by 2030. Specifically, companies will:  

  • Acknowledge the intersectionality of employee identity and experience and use that lens to evaluate policies and practices aimed at fostering inclusion, with a specific consideration of how the effects of discrimination may intensify for employees who identify with multiple historically disadvantaged and underrepresented groups (e.g. gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.)

  • Assess current business practices and policies against the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles, disclose results and publish a CEO statement of support 

  • Building on an established Human Rights Due Diligence system, provide resources and forums (e.g. employee resource groups, etc.) for employees to connect and share grievances and identify solutions that can then be communicated to and addressed by senior management 

  • Annually disclose data on equal employment opportunities via the EE0-1 form for U.S. employees, disaggregated by gender, race, disability, ethnicity and job category

  • Regularly conduct and disclose the results of internal assessments that examine equity in hiring, retention, job placement, advancement and promotion rates throughout the workforce (with specific attention to historically disadvantaged and underrepresented groups) and identify instances of unconscious bias 

  • Create an action plan that communicates concrete and measurable interim targets for improvement, identifies solutions to address existing gaps and inequities and establishes clear accountability for all managers 

In pursuit of the goal to achieve intersectional equity, diversity and inclusion across their workforces by 2030, in 2025 companies will:

  • Disclose updated results of the analysis examining corporate practice and policies against the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, detailing a strategy for addressing the identified gaps and achieving gender parity by 2030

  • Implement solutions to address existing gaps and inequities in hiring, retention, job placement, advancement and promotion rates across the workforce , expanding the application of successful strategies and programs (e.g. anti-discrimination policies, inclusive design, unconscious bias training, employee resource groups or employee networks to support and educate underserved employee groups, etc.)

  • Disclose the results and effectiveness of the solutions employed as well as progress against the interim targets set toward the ultimate achievement of intersectional equity, diversity and inclusion across their workforces 

The workforce at all levels, including the composition of the board and senior leadership, reflects gender parity and the intersectional diversity of the company’s stakeholders. All groups across the workforce feel included, respected and heard in their workplace, and are clearly represented in decision-making. Companies have achieved equity in policies, practices and performance in hiring, retention, job placement, advancement and promotion rates across the workforce, and specifically as it applies to historically disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. 

Systemic Racism

In the early days of 2020, the brutal murder of George Floyd exposed the harsh reality and experience of being Black in America. U.S. companies responded in earnest with calls for racial justice, statements of solidarity, commitments of respect and support for black colleagues, recognition of Juneteenth and philanthropic contributions to organizations fighting for racial equity. For many, however, the response fell flat. As Darren Walker, CEO of the Ford Foundation, observes, “The old playbook—giving back through philanthropy as a way of ameliorating the effects of inequality—cannot heal what ails our nation. It cannot address the root causes of this inequality.” Consumers, employees, lawmakers and investors agree and are calling on companies to move beyond these gestures of support to examine their operations, management systems, lobbying activity and business models to identify and address their own contributions to systemic racism. 

In July 2020, a group of investors led by the NYC Comptroller requested companies in the S&P 100 to publicly release Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO-1 form) data to help investors better measure the success of these company’s diversity and inclusion practices. Ultimately, with better data, investors will be positioned to more easily identify those companies that are matching their words with concrete action. It will enable the recognition of those companies credibly making progress to improving diversity and inclusion and addressing issues of inequity across their workforce. 

However, access to better information can only be the first step, and truly represents the minimum of what actions must follow. The real test is how companies use this information to change the status quo. To build more equitable hiring and advancement practices, to acknowledge and support the experience of those sitting at the intersection of historically disadvantaged groups (e.g. black women), to support investment in black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities and businesses and to actively advocate for anti-racist policy. Transitioning the corporate response to address systemic racism—turning a moment into a movement—will require companies to look beyond the traditional “playbook” and commit to the hard work that is required to make lasting change.

Inclusivity for People with Disabilities

In the U.S., the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities is just 29% compared to 70% for those without disabilities. While negative and inaccurate  perceptions of people with disabilities are beginning to slowly break down, barriers still remain that prevent many able workers from contributing to the workforce. Organizations such as Disability:IN bring companies and other organizations representing historically disadvantaged and underrepresented groups together to name these barriers, bridge the gap and provide equitable outcomes for people with disabilities in hiring, retention and advancement. 

One barrier to equitable outcomes is accessible workforce technology.  Providing access to digital tools, including software applications and other technologies, that are accessible to and usable by employees and applicants with disability is a critical first step for any company seeking to improve the troubling lack of disability diversity in the U.S. and global economy. 
Building a workplace that is more inclusive and equitable can present benefits for all employees. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the critical importance and value of flexible work policies. Allowing people to work in ways that meet their needs (e.g. part time, from home, with flexible hours) can open up the pool of potential applicants for specific jobs and represents an outsized benefit for disabled employees. More flexible work policies can also support more targeted programs designed to serve particular underrepresented segments of the disability community, such as Autism @ Work programs currently underway in some global technology companies.

Technology and policy changes are far more easily addressed, however, than those challenges that are more rooted in community and company culture. The pandemic exacerbated—but also shined a light—on the mental health issues so many employees live with on a daily basis, but often in ways that are hidden. Removing the stigma attached to mental health and well-being, and actively investing in support and treatment programs are increasing in value to corporations. The World Health Organization estimates that for every US $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US $4 in improved health and productivity. 

In addition to changing their own policies, practices and programs, companies must also advocate for public policy to increase opportunity for individuals from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups to acquire high-demand skills and skills of the future. Taking a sectoral approach, with a focus on accessible technology, companies should collaborate with labor unions, local educational institutions, peers, communities and municipalities to create training and education programs that serve the needs of these individuals.

A comprehensive equity, diversity and inclusion strategy must embrace specific policies, practices and culture change to ensure that people with disabilities are able to find and maintain meaningful work in the transitioning and sustainable economy. 

Getting Started

This section of the Ceres Roadmap 2030 identifies the foundational steps companies can take to begin implementing the actions needed to build a just and inclusive economy.

✓ Engage Role Players

To capture the full breadth and depth of the risks and opportunities related to building a just and inclusive economy, companies should consider the role of various business units across the value chain and regularly engage with business unit leaders to analyze the intersection between human rights and human capital risks and opportunities and their processes.  Upstream, human rights and human capital related opportunities may take the form of engaging tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers to evaluate and remedy human rights impacts. Within operations, these opportunities may take the form of addressing the wage gap or providing unconscious bias training for employees. Engaging business unit leaders will uncover better solutions and make the process of establishing workforce accountability easier. Concurrently, business unit leaders and senior management need to establish fluid lines of communication and disseminate key risks and opportunities into clear messaging that will engage board members. Complementary board oversight and accountability from the top down will support the integration of sustainability priorities across the business, informing strategic and annual planning and ensuring the proper allocation of resources for achieving stated goals. 

✓ Connect the Dots

Building a just and inclusive economy starts by understanding the business’ fundamental relationship between people, labor and human rights.  Using the lens of saliency, which helps to identify those issues with the greatest potential for adverse impacts on people, and applying it to business strategy and decision-making, reinforces a company’s values and strengthens the fabric that holds the company together.  

✓ Establish Policies

Companies just getting started will want to first establish company wide policies that support the intention to respect fundamental human rights, applying the same commitment to both direct and indirect employees across the value chain. Corporate policies should align to the fundamental human rights as identified in the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These policies and commitments should then be made part of human rights and human capital management systems aligned with the guidelines set forth by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. 

✓ Build a Management System Designed for Evolution

While the policies and management systems are intended to be permanent, the reality is that human rights and the potential for impact to people across the value chain is constantly changing. Integrating salient issues into the risk assessment and decision-making processes is essential. However, decisions made outside of the company, by other parties and in other regions can have downstream impacts on the company and its people.  Therefore, specific processes, assessments and key performance indicators require periodic review to ensure there is accurate management and monitoring on what is most salient and an ongoing understanding of how impacts may evolve over time.

✓ Pay Taxes

To improve the foundation of our economic and social systems, companies should pay their fair share in taxes to make sure that funds are available to support equitable programs.  As disruptions impact the global economy, it is critical for governments to have the funds available to absorb shocks and invest in a sustainable path towards recovery.  When companies deliberately reduce their tax obligation, it helps their bottom line, but contributes to the fragility of the system as a whole.

Disclosing Progress

Disclosure establishes accountability, provides a foundation for engagement and serves as a platform for demonstrating priorities, process and progress. See the Transparency and Disclosure section of Ceres Roadmap 2030 on how to make all of your disclosures complete, credible and decision-useful.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards and the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) are two disclosure tools widely recognized as standards for comparable sustainability disclosure. Disclosure related to corporate efforts to build a just and inclusive economy should also be guided by an additional disclosure framework that helps to strengthen corporate disclosure and meet the expectations of stakeholders, in particular investors: the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) Reporting Framework

The UNGP Reporting Framework, published in 2015, provides comprehensive guidance for companies reporting on management approaches and systems for respecting human rights in direct operations and across value chains. Most significantly, the reporting framework introduces the concept of saliency, calling on companies to first assess priorities through the lens of risks to people (rightsholders) versus risks to the business. Through this change in perspective, companies are able to identify and act on the human rights challenges that present the most severe risks to people.

Supported by investor interest, companies should prioritize disclosure of the following specific metrics:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Data - Year-over-year data collected on equal employment opportunity (EEO-1 Form for U.S. employees) disaggregated by gender, race, ethnicity and job category 
  • Wage Data - Data detailing wages, benefits and pay ratios, disaggregated by gender, race, ethnicity and job category
  • Tax Payments - How the approach to tax is embedded within the organization and country-by-country reporting of tax-related information for each jurisdiction in which the organization operates. For more information go to GRI 207: Tax Guidance.

Additional Disclosure Resources

Ceres: Disclose What Matters -  Analyzes the sustainability disclosures of the world's largest companies and can help companies bridge the gap and provide executable, relevant information to investors.

Workforce Disclosure Initiative - Provides a common set of questions through an annual survey for companies from all sectors to disclose their management of human rights and human capital issues across the value chain. The WDI platform allows companies to demonstrate to their investors, clients and other stakeholders how their approach to workforce management is aligned with their business strategy.


With respect to equity, diversity and inclusion, there are many programs, resources and materials available to help guide companies. Below is a list of some key resources:

The Women’s Empowerment Principles Gap Analysis Tool - A business-driven tool designed to help companies from around the world assess gender equality performance across the workplace, marketplace and community.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) - The Convention is intended as a human rights instrument with an explicit, social development dimension. It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated and where protection of rights must be reinforced.

Web Accessibility Initiative - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that provide insight on web accessibility, a practice which ensures that technology can be used by people with disabilities.

Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership - This report by Catalyst includes survey findings revealing the drivers of inclusion and introduces a model for inclusive leadership. 

COVID-19: Women, Equity and Inclusion in the Future of Work - This Catalyst report draws upon the organization’s expertise and research to identify five strategies for building an inclusive workplace that works for everyone in this moment where the future of work is changing in uncertain ways. 

International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work - Adopted in 1998, the Declaration commits member states to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights - Provides an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity.

Corporate Human Rights Benchmark - A collaboration led by investors and civil society organisations to assess 200 of the largest publicly traded companies in the world on a set of human rights indicators.

Companies in Action

CVS is recognized as a top company for prioritizing diversity and inclusion throughout its workforce and supply chain. CVS sets an example for how companies can support people with disabilities through CVS's Abilities in Abundance Program. As just one part of a comprehensive diversity strategy, this program offers workplace development opportunities and training for people with disabilities. Through the operation of eight mock pharmacies, CVS provides hands-on training and mentorship that positions people for employment inside and outside of the company. CVS’s diversity and inclusion efforts go beyond its direct operations to include its supply chain. For example, CVS's Supplier Diversity Program seeks to intentionally source from small and minority-owned businesses. CVS highlights that the program is not only a part of its diversity strategy, it also helps fuel economic growth in the communities in which the company operates, ultimately providing more disposable income for customers. In 2019 alone, CVS’s engagement through its supplier diversity program was linked to 35,746 jobs and the contribution of $5.6 billion to the U.S. economy. 

Dell launches ambitious 2030 diversity and inclusion goals as part of its broader social impact strategy. As part of the company’s 2030 Social Impact Goals, Dell shared concrete commitments to further integrate diversity and inclusion expectations throughout the company. Among the targets, the company pledged that by 2030, 40% of global leadership positions will be held by women and 25% of its U.S. workforce will be Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino. While setting targets is a necessary tactic, establishing robust training and empowering employees is critical to driving change and ensuring that commitments are upheld and embedded throughout the company. To this end, Dell is committed to having 95% of its employees participate in annual training on topics such as implicit bias, harassment, microaggression and privilege. Similarly, 50% of employees will participate in employee resource groups to drive social impact.

Intel meets diversity and inclusion targets ahead of schedule and continues to invest in an inclusive workforce beyond its own operations. Bolstered by a strong business case, Intel continues to prioritize and invest in diversity and inclusion within its own operations and beyond. In its 2018/19 sustainability report, Intel announced that it had achieved full representation of women and underrepresented minorities in its U.S. workforce two years ahead of schedule, along with achieving gender pay equity globally. Going beyond hiring and retention, Intel is on track to achieve its goal of increasing annual spending in diverse-owned suppliers to $1 billion by 2020. The company is also focused on building a more diverse technology industry through direct investment in diverse tech entrepreneurs, having already surpassed its $125 million goal ahead of schedule.

Marriott International’s commitment to diversity and inclusion comes from the top. Leading companies are turning to robust accountability and incentive mechanisms to deepen diversity and inclusion efforts and rally corporate leaders to own the progress. To foster accountability at the highest levels, Marriott International’s President & CEO Arne Sorenson chairs Marriott's Global Diversity and Inclusion Council along with the entire C-suite. For executives, diversity and inclusion goals are included in their annual management business objectives and compensation plans, along with having specific performance metrics that are regularly discussed in board and senior leadership meetings. At the board level, the company’s Committee for Excellence reviews Marriott’s diversity and inclusion progress and goals and engages with management regularly on these topics. With specific goals for each diversity aspect, the board tracks progress through a diversity excellence scorecard. Among the results, Marriott has been featured for its work fostering women representation in leadership positions and ongoing investments to empower diverse suppliers.