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Volume 22 No. 32
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The business case for diversity

Coca-Cola’s Andrew Davis: If a company wants to survive and grow, it better have an inclusive mindset.
At the 2018 CAA World Congress of Sports, Davis discussed how inclusion has grown beyond race, gender and ethnicity.
Photo: Tony Florez

Diversity has been a part of who we are. But make no mistake, we’ve not been perfect along this journey. We had ups and downs, but we’ve always reaffirmed ourself in terms of our diversity inclusion message and what we focus on. … When you operate in 207 countries, what I like to say is, “We better be diverse.” 

You can be as diverse as you want to be, but without an inclusive culture, you won’t be able to retain [and] sustain your diversity efforts. As a matter of fact, you could do more harm than good if you bring diverse people, or any people into an exclusive culture. 

This is truly the next evolution for the business case for diversity inclusion. With this tipping point in this country, businesses really have to have a new mandate. A new normal. It’s truly about creating a more inclusive approach within your strategy and in your culture if you really want to grow. What I’d like to say to back that up is, not only about growing, but if you want to survive, you’ve got to have an inclusive mindset. 

Kantar Consulting helped us do a study last year. Over 200 companies, and we looked at their trend lines and their business results over the year. What we saw was that 53 percent of those brands around the world were declining. Why? They were losing customers; 84 percent were losing customers. Forty-seven percent of those [200] companies were growing because they grew their customer base. … What are you doing to make sure that you grow your base? That means looking at places that you may have not looked before. That means looking at underserved markets and emerging consumers.

We are wired to belong. If you can find a sense of community, you feel included, you give your best self. The inclusive imperative around growth speaks to that. That inclusion now has gone beyond race, gender, ethnicity. That it’s got a spectrum of different dimensions that makes us unique and different. And that’s a beautiful thing. That brings innovation, that brings growth, that brings different ideas, that ultimately helps you grow your business. You’ve got to have an inclusive mindset if you want to grow. 

Make inclusion a guiding principal in your organization. We talked about the importance of that foundation. Revise your organization’s code of conduct to address issues we’re facing today. This is the new normal. If you aren’t thinking about that, you’re missing out. Extend an invitation to someone not representing your leadership team and empower them to raise their voice. That could be someone on your team or outside your organization. They can bring a different perspective to the game for you. 

The challenge we have is that hiring managers don’t take chances on people externally. They prefer to hire people that are like me. Again, remember what the brain does — 80 percent of the time it’s on automatic, and all it wants is shortcuts and easy ways to make decisions … What you have to do is manage that 80 percent by making sure you have the right hiring practices and policies to help you through it. 

The last thing I’ll say about trying to get a more diverse talent pool: Great talent knows great talent. If you’re interested in getting that, talk to diverse folks that are in your respective organizations. Find out where those great people are and bring them in. Make sure that you have a practice in place to keep those biases under control. 

I’ll leave you with a provocative thought: What if we lived in a world where there are no labels? What if we lived in a world where we had no biases? Would we treat each other differently? Would we interact with each other in a different way? Would we forgive each other when we might offend a little bit more easily? 

Sports entertainment, you have an opportunity. You have a responsibility to be the bridge to unite this country. My challenge for you is to be that bridge.

Andrew Davis is global chief diversity and inclusion officer for Coca-Cola Co. Excerpted from his presentation at the 2018 CAA World  Congress of Sports.