Understanding the importance of DEI to all aspects of your operations, recognising DEI as a critical component of business and risk management strategies, and ensuring that sustainable, durable foundations are in place to support your DEI strategy first.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has an intrinsic role to play across all aspects of business strategy for maritime organisations. There is a tendency to pigeonhole DEI as an HR issue, particularly when focused on recruitment, retention, and talent development, which is understandable. However, action on DEI needs to permeate throughout an organisation if it is to be fully effective.
Effective DEI is critical for business leaders who want to meet the challenges our industry faces in relation to technology, innovation, digitalisation, and talent attraction amongst others. We have seen organisations diversifying their asset books and service offerings to mitigate risk and remain competitive. The time is long overdue for the same rationale to be applied to people.
Why has this not happened already? Perhaps it is because it takes longer to achieve that more business leaders are not embracing DEI into business and risk management strategies. It could also be, as we have seen in other industries more advanced in DEI than maritime, that many organisations have prioritised short term KPIs on DEI at the expense of putting in place deeper and more durable DEI foundations. This takes time and effort, but it is far more likely to ensure that all employees throughout an organisation are equipped to play their part.
For organisations who take a holistic approach, the benefits of a successful DEI strategy aligned to business objectives will be felt in every part of the organisation. One of our DSG members has spoken of how it was only through their DEI strategy that they developed an environment that encouraged fresh thinking and creative ideas from everyone. This in turn has had a significant impact on their approach to shipping’s decarbonisation challenge – and is helping shape that organisation’s decarbonisation initiatives.
The same principle applies to every element of an organisation’s long-term business planning, spanning leadership, gender, culture, talent attraction and development, as well as specific commercial or corporate challenges in the maritime sphere, such as decarbonisation or digitalisation.
A properly developed and embedded DEI strategy will support every strand of these elements of business strategy. It will be attractive to investors, to business partners, to consumers, and to existing and new talent. Across all areas of problem solving and business planning, it will support greater innovation, creativity, and performance, as well as reducing the risks of getting it wrong.
For shipping companies, we can add the importance of an effective DEI strategy for their sea staff and vessel operations. As our previous blog explained https://diversitystudygroup.com/why-dei-matters-for-seafarers, a company-wide DEI strategy that breaks down the barriers between ship and shore will also support company culture, decision-making and operations in both arenas, driving up performance and reducing the risks faced by that organisation – including the very particular risks faced at sea.
In our experience, the appetite is certainly there from employees to share their opinions and get involved in the conversation about the importance of DEI. One of the organisations that we work with regularly has an engagement rate of over 80% with their team on diversity and inclusion issues. This also benefits from a strong culture of communication and engagement across the organisation, which makes everyone aware of the role that they can play.
Different organisations are approaching this challenge in different ways. Some have a dedicated DEI head, leading this initiative on behalf of their organisation. Others have a strong DEI strategy that is led by their regional and department heads. They then engage with their teams in the way that works best for them, rather than all following the same model.
For maritime organisations at the early stages of their DEI journey, it is important to resist the temptation to put treat DEI as a siloed, standalone ‘project’. A DEI strategy built on the right founding principles will be a powerful tool for supporting business planning and risk management across all other parts of your organisation – at sea and on shore. The result will be a higher performing business and one that is fit for the challenges that all maritime organisations need to plan ahead for today.
On Tuesday 17th May, we’ll be joining a webinar hosted by Ship Management International on ‘DEI as a business and risk management strategy’. Alongside BW Fleet Management, Ardmore Shipping, Cargill, and Lloyd’s Register, we’ll be sharing our views on the business-critical contribution that DEI can bring to an organisation. Register here to join: