Once neglected, DEI initiatives now present at all Fortune 100 companies
As of at least July 2022, all Fortune 100 companies have made a public commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
On July 13, conservative activist Christopher Rufo, senior fellow and director of the Manhattan Institute’s initiative on critical race theory, published a column — for the City Journal, where he is contributing editor — highlighting this Fortune 100 milestone. Fact-checking Rufo’s claim, HR Dive confirmed that each of the 100 companies have DEI initiatives outlined on their websites.
Once an arguably neglected HR niche, diversity is front and center for the dozens of companies shaping the future of business. On the list are retail behemoths like Amazon, Costco, Target and Walmart; tech staples like Alphabet, Apple, Dell, IBM, and telecom companies AT&T and Verizon. Organizations like GM, Deere and Home Depot are alongside major banks, energy companies, insurance vendors, healthcare giants and food manufacturers.
While some have expressed concern regarding “virtue signaling” or performative allyship, the Fortune collective appears to be moving the needle and building on previous DEI accomplishments.
HR Dive previously covered an October 2020 announcement from Fortune that demographic data for 2021’s top roster would be publicly available. To combat the “continued lack of racial and ethnic diversity in corporate workplaces,” the Measure Up initiative was set to prioritize diversity disclosure and accountability as ways to ensure progress.
Notably, Deloitte and the Alliance for Board Diversity collaborated on research titled “Missing Pieces Report: The Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards.” According to the 2020 analysis, 200 companies had “greater than 40% diversity,” a goal the alliance set in 2004. As stated by Deloitte in a press release, the rate of companies with diverse boards has almost quadrupled since data collection began.
In 2021, a business leader of similar status made good on its 2020 DEI commitments: Nasdaq filed a proposal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to mandate board diversity and disclosure. The SEC approved this new rule, wherein companies would operate with a “comply or explain” approach. This rule recommended that companies have two diverse board members or explain why they could not.
Next to mandates and audits, another way HR leaders have held executives’ feet to the fire is by linking DEI progress to compensation. About one-third of S&P 500 companies have folded DEI metrics into their executive incentive plans, 2022 reports indicated. Semler Brossy reported that 28% of S&P 500 companies included DEI in exec compensation plans; Mercer reported 35%.
While piling on paperwork and targeting corporate pockets have proven actionable methods to ensure DEI progress, many HR experts argue that these methods ring hollow. In its statement announcing the ABD report, Deloitte researchers were already noting in 2020 that the business case for diversity was “not new and may no longer be forward-thinking.”
Two years later, corporate leaders appear to be increasingly on board with equity and inclusion work. MIT Sloan Management Review’s summer 2022 issue included a report by U.S. Army DEI lead Anselm A. Beach and UNC Chapel Hill business professor Albert H. Segars. In their report on their values/principle model, the experts named “building a moral case” as a DEI best practice. Beach and Segars posited this moral approach as a foil to the “business case,” which has, they wrote, “legitimized exploitative actions throughout history.”
The authors urged, “Choose to build DEI because it is the right thing to do. Embed DEI into the collective mission.”
Intentions are unknowable, but the numbers so far indicate that Fortune’s top companies appear to be embedding DEI into corporate America’s collective mission.