First Diversity Position Paper of the European Federation of Employers’ Association

Business Europe, the EU-level platform for employers’ associations, has created its first position paper on Diversity Management at the European workplace. The ten pages summary calls out several drivers, advantages and approaches for reaching a diverse, inclusive and hence more successful business culture. While most of the paper will not seem to be ground-breaking for D&I practitioners, the fact that the largest and most important federation of employers’ associations in Brussels is sending this message is fundamentally new. It raises hopes for more joint actions on the European or at least on the EU level. For the umbrella organisation unites more than 40 national employers’ organisations like the French MEDEF, the German BDI or the British CBI from a total of 35 countries. Business Europe aims to “promote flexible and voluntary solutions at company level and encourage all stakeholders to look at diversity from a performance and competitiveness point of view” by publishing the paper. Demanding an active stance on Diversity is one of the key messages and in this way contrasts the very hesitating – if not reluctant – position of many national industry or employers’ associations. Business Europe encourages a pro-active company-based impetus instead of waiting for (more) public legislation.

The position paper refers to Diversity with a comprehensive approach, equally including age, disability, gender, sexual orientation and religion and ethnic background. The more diverse the workforce, the more innovative its products, the more likely market entries will succeed. The biggest employers´ lobbyist acknowledges the importance of Diversity in the light of an ageing workforce, increased migration, high youth unemployment rates and changing social and cultural norms instead of emphasizing it as a measure to avoid lawsuits due to discrimination. “This positive attitude towards Diversity will lead to better outcomes for companies in the end”, Michael Stuber, Diversity-researcher comments. “If companies really appreciate the pluralism of potentials and encourage open-mindedness and participation within their workforce, they will automatically receive a decline in antidiscrimination charges.”Addressing micro-level challenges like skill shortages and restricted talent pools with Diversity brings along a couple of advantages. Business Europe quotes the tracking of the Return of Inclusion Investments practiced by many companies and presents the prospect of increased market coverage, more innovation, a better employer branding and public image as well as an enhanced capacity to resolute internal conflicts. Companies should make their targets measurable and monitor the development in order to determine successes as well arrears.