Leading Inclusively in Renewables

inclusive team environment

Guest blog with Shanta Eaden, Founder and CEO, Leader’s Edge Consulting
Co-Authored by: Jennifer Pettineo, Capital Markets Team, EDPR NA DG

Inclusion is an action. It’s an intentional and deliberate term that, under the best circumstances, one expects in all areas of work, life, and play. In organizations, inclusion must be fully integrated into the culture and a part of the company’s DNA in a deliberate, authentic, and intentional way.

Why is inclusion important? Not only is it the right thing to do, but studies from Deloitte show that inclusive organizations are 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes, 2x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets, and 3x more likely to be high performing.

It is also a practice that gives companies a competitive advantage when recruiting top talent. 78% of respondents to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends research reported that diversity and inclusion is important to workplace ethos. With the emergence of the Great Resignation (or the Great Awakening), organizations are consistently competing for talent and are working hard to win and retain diverse customers and suppliers.

To remain competitive and innovative, organizations are realizing that the way they accept and treat their employees – through rewards, engagement, work purpose and culture – is essential to long-term success.

Employees seek out diverse and inclusive workspaces where they can bring their whole selves to work and feel empowered to contribute at a high level. Inversely, contribution and performance drastically wane when one is forced to ‘hold back’ any element of themselves because of the culture climate that exists within an organization.

For black employees, this could be antiquated opinions about natural hair; women could be holding back on showing their full personalities and communicating their ambitions – and particularly in the spirit of Pride month this June – one could hold back on being who they truly are.

This amplifies the importance of this year’s Pride theme, ‘Unapologetically Us’ for the LGBTQ+ community. According to aU.S. survey by BCG and NYC LGBTQ Community Center “40% of LGBTQ employees are closeted at work and 75% have reported experiencing negative day-to-day workplace interactions related to their LGBTQ identity in the past year.” Moreover, “only 34% of straight employees always intervene when they see such an encounter, leaving LGBTQ employees often unsupported.”

So, how do leaders best facilitate inclusivity for the betterment of their people and the organization? The leader’s role is less about power and more about advocacy of desired organizational culture and modeling those behaviors. Leading inclusively and courageously doesn’t abandon performance and productivity; instead, it values that there is neither without people.

Inclusive leaders are courageous and not accepting of the status quo but pressing forward for the sake of their people and business. They accept the responsibility to foster and protect a culture where employees are seen for all of who they are, and employees know they belong.

As poet, Maya Angelo, one poignantly stated,

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

EDPR Renewables North America (EDPR NA), the U.S based business of the fourth largest global renewable energy producer, EDP Renewables, has been unafraid of challenging leaders to lead with the virtue of courage. The organization has long held that a diversity and inclusion is a key driver of company culture that is crucial towards building a more sustainable tomorrow.
“At EDPR NA, we foster a culture that is founded on human equality, the value of individual experiences, and strength in diversity. We believe that as a renewable energy professional, you need all three to fully reach your career potential,” notes Sandhya Ganapathy, CEO, EDPR NA.

Employee experience and data will tell whether you are leading inclusively. Typical engagement surveys should be expanded to include climate questions from the perspective of peer-to-peer, immediate managers, and the organization as a whole.Once the data is provided – listen and act. Listen to the data and develop actions which address the areas of opportunity through everyday acts of inclusion. Some key recommendations:

  • Get comfortable talking about hard topics and having courageous conversations.
  • Establish key measurements reviewed in a regular cadence; include workforce diversity, inclusion metrics, discrimination, exit interview data. To be proactive, organizations can also institute stay interviews and/or regular feedback loops with pulse surveys.
  • Focus on your supply chain to promote diversity in selection of vendors and supply partners. Expanding your business’ supply chain to include businesses owned and operated by a diverse range of individuals can be an important pillar of your company’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice efforts. For more information on how to do so, specifically in the solar sector, check out The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Diverse Suppliers Database.
  • Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) cannot be the totality of the DEI strategy. Instead, organizations should leverage ERGs to exhibit leadership’s commitment to DEI –and allow them to advance inclusive recruitment practices, expansion of benefits, and employee engagement. EDPR’s ERG, the PRIDE SynERGy Group, is a key example of an employee-led and thought-forward LGBTQ+ group that has partnered with leadership to engage and share perspectives on several internal initiatives.
  • Cultivating an inclusive culture also means consistently evaluating processes and systems, which may have inherited biases. This includes decision-making, which can reinforce commitment to DEI, not just in the stages of the employee lifecycle, but in the policies, projects, program/team assignments, etc. – and cross-check those system biases across all dimensions of diversity.
  • Align your training programs to your DEI objectives to move the organization forward, continuing with DEI essential training but extend to allyship, advocacy programs and group coaching to focus more on action.

For EDP Renewables (EDPR), the data on specific employee demographics assist in benchmarking progress and tells leadership an important story. EDPR has been included for the third consecutive year in the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI), a modified market capitalization-weighted index that aims to track the performance of public companies committed to transparency in gender-data reporting.

This year a total of 418 companies based in more than 45 countries and regions have been included in the index, including for the first-time companies based in Colombia and Uruguay. The companies in the index represent a variety of sectors, mainly finance, technology and utilities, which collectively account for the majority of companies in the index.

To make the selection, more than 11,500 listed companies have been analyzed using Bloomberg ESG data. Companies are assigned a Bloomberg ESG score which is measured on a scale of zero to 100%, being 100% the highest score. This benchmark measures gender equality across five pillars: female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, inclusive culture, anti-sexual harassment policies, and pro-women brand.

The data that speaks for EDPR is by no means pinnacle, but acknowledgment, accountability and a commitment to move intentionally towards diversity and inclusion goals is the name of the game.

We all have actions we can take, starting with acknowledging and recognizing our biases in order to intentionally and deliberately foster inclusion in the workplace. It’s okay to acknowledge that we all start somewhere. As the old saying goes, “When you know better, do better”. What’s important is to start the hard conversations, raise intentionality, and deliberately move towards an authentic inclusive workplace environment.

Resources for additional reading:
Societal Must-Reads (renewablesforward.com)
Global diversity and inclusion survey: PwC
Six signature traits of inclusive leadership | Deloitte Insights
Letter: Renewable energy leads the way with diversity – The Lima News (limaohio.com)
A New LGBTQ Workforce Has Arrived—Inclusive Cultures Must Follow | BCG

Guest Author Contact:

Shanta Eaden
E: shanta@leadersedgeconsult.com

EDPR NA DG Contact:

Jennifer Pettineo
E: jennifer.pettineo@edp.com