Diversity as a tool for new thinking

Mixing skills, perspectives, and experiences has been a necessity for the environmental company Ragn-Sells since the start in 1881. To keep developing new circular solutions for a sustainable future, promoting a diverse organisation is key. In the upcoming decade, HR Director Susanne Schumann views diversity as more critical to maintaining a successful business than ever.

23 Jan 2024

– In order to drive the transition into a circular economy and contribute to a sustainable society, we need to constantly devise new circular value chains. Diversity is our tool for new thinking, and indispensable for innovation, says Susanne Schumann, Chief HR Officer at Ragn-Sells Group.

It‘s not a coincidence that diversity is defined as one of Ragn-Sells’ seven sustainability goals. Ever since the business was founded, developing new skills, and working methods has been crucial for the business to progress.

Research shows that a diverse and inclusive organisation creates an incomparable environment for innovation. It increases productivity and creativity, both essential for development. Adding perspectives also improves decision-making throughout the organisation.

– In every decision we make, from planning climate efficient transport of waste to developing new value chains where waste replaces virgin resources, we need to ensure diversity in both skills and thoughts. It’s the best tool we have to achieve our sustainability goals while developing the business, says Schumann.

She emphasises that the best way for Ragn-Sells to be a sustainable force in society is to make sure that the company’s own micro-society is sustainable.

– We want to constantly work towards a more inclusive working environment, where everyone, regardless of background, competence, or identity, feels safe, respected, and welcome just as they are, says Susanne Schumann.

Promoting diversity is also integrated in strategies to prevent discrimination and promote well-being. For example, Ragn-Sells works across all markets to better accommodate needs for hybrid work solutions, as well as finding ways for employees to be able to care for young children or aging parents.

A serious strategy to improve diversity has to be firmly grounded in the actual challenges the organisation faces. It also benefits from clear commitments to which the organisation can be held accountable.

– As a male-dominated company in a male-dominated industry, gender equality has so far been a priority within our diversity ambitions. Now we are expanding our view on diversity, says Schumann.

Illustration discribing the different between equality and equity.

Ragn-Sells has well-defined goals and targets for gender equal representation throughout the organisation, especially for leadership positions. Actions to reach these goals include the requirement to have at least one female candidate among top candidates in the recruitment processes for leadership positions. But promoting diversity is about so much more than gender equality, Schumann underscores. Building an inclusive culture requires attracting and retaining people from different backgrounds and with different experiences.

– We see that what we measure also gets results, but diversity is more important than having tick-the-box targets to include in our sustainability report. We consider diversity a method to continuously improve both our organisation and our business offer. As we continue to grow, we need more of everybody, says Schumann.

Prior to all big business decisions, it is crucial to consider what skills and backgrounds to highlight and include in that specific context. Examples of situations to integrate this perspective include recruitment and succession, appointing a new spokesperson, or assembling a project team. Increasing awareness of the risks connected to unconscious bias and micro-aggressions is a business-wide priority in order for these efforts to be successful.

– We still have work cut out for us to integrate this thinking into the entire organisation. Everyone from the drivers of our trucks to heads of sales, to our CEO, has to think of diversity as critical to business, says Schumann.

As the prioritised next step, Ragn-Sells plans to increase awareness throughout the entire group of the importance of diversity for business success. During 2024, leadership will continue training on diversity awareness with a special focus on unconscious biases, building upon findings from the annual employee survey. The second step is to map all decision-making processes to identify where diversity needs to be included to a larger extent than it is today and evaluate the need for additional targets or benchmarking practices. Equally important is for each business to develop individual action plans on how integrate more diverse skills and perspectives.

– I’m hopeful and confident. An increased focus on diversity will help us achieve our promise to be living proof that caring for the earth and business go hand in hand, for another 150 years, says Susanne Schumann.