Bertelsmann Executive Board Adopts Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Policy
A diverse workforce is a prerequisite for creativity and entrepreneurship. An open, fair and appreciative working environment is needed for diversity to develop its full effect. The Bertelsmann Executive Board ensures its committmented to a diverse, and inclusive company by adopting a new “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Policy” . In an interview, Bertelsmann's Chief HR Officer Immanuel Hermreck explains how this policy came about and what the next steps will be.
Mr. Hermreck, why do we need a “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Policy”?
Immanuel Hermreck: We are operating in more than 50 countries around the world. All these places are colorful and diverse. As a media, services, and education company, we want to reflect this diversity in our workforce, content, and business activities. For us, this is a matter of attitude - and at the same time it is also right and important from a business point of view. We believe that the diversity of our employees’ perspectives is what makes us a creative and successful company. In order for a diversity of perspectives to be effective and make us more successful, we need the right conditions to be in place. That is why the Bertelsmann Executive Board has decided to set out our basic understanding of this issue in a new “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Policy” and to take a clear position on it.
What has changed compared to the “Diversity Statement” adopted in 2018?
Immanuel Hermreck: The new “DEI Policy” is more far-reaching and reflects the social debate about diversity. Diversity is a very important requirement, but equally important is an open, inclusive and appreciative corporate culture in which the individual needs of employees are recognized and taken into account. Only when our employees feel safe and that they belong can they contribute to Bertelsmann's success with their full potential. These aspects have now been incorporated into the “DEI Policy”. In addition to the thematic expansion, the “DEI Policy” is also more binding than the previous Diversity Statement, names forms of discrimination such as racism and sexism more explicitly, and clearly shows that discrimination of any kind is prohibited at our company. The Executive Board makes it very clear that we will not tolerate this type of behavior in our company.
What specifically does the new policy mean for each individual?
Immanuel Hermreck: Creating a culture in which everyone feels welcome and valued with their different backgrounds and perspectives - that is a task of everyone in the company. Prejudices, exclusionary comments, or insinuating jokes, as well as so-called "microaggressions" have an enormous influence on the way we interact with each other. It is everyone's responsibility to question their own behavior. To this end, for example, we have been making a free "Unconscious Bias Online" collection available on Peoplenet since last year. Of course, our managers, as well as our HR and communications departments, play a special role and act as role models in creating fair conditions and an inclusive culture. The international, cross-divisional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Working Group and the Corporate Responsibility department coordinate our “DEI” efforts and support the ongoing development of the topic in the organization - including, e.g., in developing this new policy. And last but not least, change always requires the support of top management, which is why the Executive Board regularly discusses the progress being made on “DEI” at our company.
Why has the Executive Board chosen this particular moment in time to address the “DEI Policy”?
Immanuel Hermreck: In January, we adopted the eight new Group-wide Corporate Responsibility (CR) priorities - and “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion” is one of them. We are currently working on a "CR Program 2021-2023" for all CR priorities under the lead management of the Corporate Responsibility Council. The debate on racism and discrimination, which has seen a resurgence worldwide since last year in connection with the "Black Lives Matter" movement, also contributed to the development of the new policy. And finally, external inquiries - for example in the context of regular CR ratings - also show our stakeholders' rising expectations with regard to “DEI”.
What happens next?
Immanuel Hermreck: Our Policy is a clear commitment to “DEI”. At the same time, however, we must acknowledge that although a lot of good things are already happening in many areas of the Group, as a company we are not yet where we want to be. Together, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. As part of the 2021-2023 CR program I just mentioned, we are now working with a lot of colleagues from across the organization to develop measures derived from the DEI Policy. In the third quarter, we will decide what we will work on specifically as a Group, but also in our individual corporate divisions.