Impact Topic: Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI)
B Lab’s standards define the performance that a company needs to manage and continuously improve upon to achieve and maintain B Corp Certification. Since 2006, they have been developed to improve their impactfulness and clarity around what it means to be a leading business and to incorporate feedback shared along the way.
In order to achieve these goals, the draft standards have departed from the current framework where companies have flexibility in how to achieve a verified 80-point score, and instead meet specific requirements across the standards’ Impact Topics. While the components of the draft standards have been developed with the existing standards in mind, you can expect to see new topics, designed to optimize and improve our certification processes. After all, the B Corp community is on a journey of continuous improvement.
Historic and ongoing systems that sustain and exacerbate inequality among systematically disadvantaged groups create the need for companies to have specific and intentional plans to adopt principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within their own organizations and value chains. Taking continuous action on JEDI is the foundation of a safe and equitable workplace that fosters belonging, and reflects a range of critical labor and human rights.
In this blog, Bernard Gouw, B Lab’s Senior Social Standards Manager, explains why Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) is a standalone topic in addition to being embedded into other social topics, and how we integrate flexibility to account for companies’ varying contexts.
To realize our vision of an inclusive and equitable economy we must advance how companies engage with aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must transform how company workplaces are experienced and improve the impact companies have on the economy and their communities. Having a dedicated JEDI Impact Topic reflects the importance of this endeavor. Our signal should be loud and clear - all companies must be working on JEDI.
When it comes to the proposed social topics, there are many overlapping and interlinked connections. As mentioned in a previous blog, all four could fall under Human Rights. Indeed, JEDI has deep conceptual links with both Human Rights and Workplace Culture, plus Fair Wages covers wage equity which is essential to achieving broader equity in the workplace. However, Human Rights and JEDI in particular often inhabit distinct spaces in sustainability and organizational change discourses. They also can fall under different roles or departments within a company and are subject to distinct frameworks, guidance, and regulation.
Although these topics are likely to converge in the coming decade, for now, we expect accelerated progress and impact by having companies approach these topics separately. We believe that progress on JEDI, Fair Wages, and Workplace Culture can be accelerated by emphasizing these issues as individual topics as opposed to folding them all under one.
When using the current B Impact Assessment you will find a long and varied list of questions on JEDI in the Community Impact Area, for example on the high-to-low pay ratio, supplier diversity, and inclusive hiring. JEDI is also integrated into several Impact Business Models (IBM) that recognize deliberate, positive impacts on underserved or underrepresented groups (for example, Workforce Development or Basic Services for the Underserved IBMs).
The latest draft standards maintain much of this thinking. There are concrete and varied actions to choose from, including all the same IBMs that exist in the current standards. There is a conscious effort to show the breadth of possible actions that fall under JEDI to avoid the pitfall of thinking JEDI is merely about staff training or writing a commitment statement.
In line with broader changes in the standards, however, JEDI will also see a shift from being optional to becoming mandatory. So whilst there is a choice of which actions to implement, there is no choice in whether a company has to meet JEDI requirements. All B Corps must work on JEDI in one way or another.
All of these acronyms have the same practical meaning, and historically B Lab has used different ones. The current B Impact Assessment refers to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, whilst B Lab as an organization has internally used JEDI since 2020.
‘JEDI’ is more commonly used in the USA, and B Lab prefers this framing because it makes the link to justice and equity more explicit. It serves as a reminder that whilst diversity and inclusion are important outcomes, they are also means to justice and equity - our end goals.
In the latest draft standards, we don’t require companies to use the JEDI acronym. We accept any variations, including - but not limited to - the following commonly used ones in English:
Diversity & Inclusion
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging
We recognize that these terms and acronyms can evolve quickly and that they will likely vary across languages. The latest draft standards create space for different terms and acronyms to be used by companies.
The systems of oppression and marginalization that we operate within are deeply rooted in our societies and touch virtually all facets of our lives. We must therefore require specific, intentional, and ambitious action from companies on Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.
The second consultation will run from 16 January 2024 to 26 March 2024.
The overarching expectations are that B Corps have inclusive and diverse work environments and contribute meaningfully to just and equitable communities.
One major change to the standards as a whole is the shift from a ‘pick and choose’ points system to a set of specific requirements that apply across B Corps. In the latest drafts, the JEDI Impact Topic borrows from both approaches - all companies are expected to complete a minimum number of JEDI actions that they choose from a list. We informally call this a ‘menu of options’ approach. The intent is that companies have a list of concrete actions to demonstrate the broad array of JEDI actions that are possible. There are 23 options in total across three sets: five in Foundation, seven in Within the workplace, and 11 in Beyond the workplace. Options include: increasing the diversity of senior leadership, inclusive hiring practices, sponsorship, and mentoring opportunities, developing an inclusive language guide, and redesigning a product or service for inclusivity. The ‘menu of options’ will hopefully inspire companies whilst also providing a clear path for expected progress, something that companies have historically valued about the B Impact Assessment.
Our global population is diverse in countless visible and invisible ways. So whilst we are confident that JEDI is a universal priority, we acknowledge that the types of JEDI priorities across workplaces are not always the same. Except for gender equity, which the standards treat as globally relevant, other priorities are highly localized and context-specific. The priorities are shaped by local history, culture, values, norms, and demographics. This is why the JEDI requirements have flexibility built into them. For example, one optional sub-requirement is for companies to set up employee resource or affinity groups within the workplace, where the company chooses which social identities those groups focus on (e.g. a group for people identifying as having a disability or for People of Color).
In several sub-requirements, companies have this type of flexibility to ensure they are implementing the required actions focusing on the right people. Guardrails exist throughout, such as requiring companies to justify their choice using worker feedback, other stakeholder feedback, local news, and local demographic data.
The JEDI Impact Topic has companies address both negative and positive impacts, both within their workplaces and beyond.
Mirroring the principles of human rights due diligence, the JEDI requirements are designed so that companies focus their efforts on the people that need it most - the systematically disadvantaged groups in their regional context. And these efforts are done based on the right kind of information, including stakeholder feedback and, wherever possible, evidence, data, and measuring.
A recurring theme across the JEDI Impact Topic is that companies take concrete steps forward based on stakeholder feedback. This means that if a company is assessing a product or service for inclusivity, it does so based on the voices of the people being affected (called ‘affected stakeholders’ in human rights language). Doing this requires sincere and transparent dialogue, sometimes about difficult or new topics.
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