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Gloria Johns headshot

A DEI Consultancy That Urges Clients to Go Beyond Token PR and CSR

By Gloria Johns

Justice Informed (JI) is a social impact consulting firm located in Chicago, Illinois, which offers four strategic service areas: diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); community engagement and strategic planning; public policy-informed corporate social responsibility (CSR); and equity-focused philanthropy.

According to Xavier Ramey, the CEO and founder of JI, in the alphabet soup that is environment, social and corporate governance (ESG), DEI and CSR, there are weak links within each element that represent a common problem: “difficulty measuring outcomes.” 

In terms of progress and impact of the three, according to Ramey, “what can be measured is what gets done.” This accounts for what might be lacking in some programs in a particular area. 

“Over the last several years, what I see [when] negotiating with Fortune 500 global executive teams to mid-size companies, is that until things are sufficiently measurable, they’re just going to do what is,” Ramey said. “It proves they are doing something, which is still progress.” 

The philosophy behind the JI methodology is to take a micro approach to problem-solving, going beneath the obvious. They make the vowels and consonants in these common acronyms — as in “E” and “S” — more meaningful and attainable for each company in ways that can be quantified.

For example, the “E” (equity) in DEI is a subjective noun open for some interpretation. It doesn’t necessarily reflect only pay or promotion, but an intangible that almost speaks more to employee satisfaction, fairness and opportunity than numbers and percentages: How many employees of color are groomed and selected for management training, versus how many employees of color are in management. 

The “S” (social) in ESG and CSR is mostly defined in terms representing a relationship of the corporation or workforce with the surrounding community, with the definition of that relationship being determined randomly some number or policy statement. 

Ramey spoke to TriplePundit about an actual social program where “a company set up a fund to help pay bails, fines and fees for those who find themselves secondarily punished by poverty, and driven deeper into the criminal justice system as a result of not having the funds to make payments.” Most of those were people of color.

“Informed” speaks to the strategic thought and planning that goes into sculpting and leading a corporation to a successful social and environmental program where the word “equity,” means much more than being equal.

Ramey added, for example, that “philanthropic equity includes a donation of time, money or product to a community program that provides fruits and vegetables to a neighborhood that wouldn’t otherwise have access."

JI would guide a company toward making an informed decision as to what the goal is and addressing a need in ways that can be observed and quantified.

“In the political arena,” Ramey noted, “if the goal is to shrink the size of government, we should concentrate on reducing the burden of government by paying a living wage.”

“When people are not paid a living wage, costly government programs often fill in the gaps.”

Beyond its work on DEI initiatives, JI also specializes in workforce and anti-poverty strategies, including housing, education, employment, and financial empowerment programs. 

“Our work is one part structural and systemic, economic and sociological. But the other side of our work is therapeutic,” said Ramey. “Our client mantra is we support people as they thrash into discovering groups they did not know they were not choosing.”

Clients include the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Health Care Services Corp (HCSC) and Mercer; each of them has launched an individually adapted plan.

“Social progress requires a bit of pioneering, and the pioneer often takes the hit of the first wave, and the first wave hits the hardest,” said Ramey. “ESG is the front of the wave right now, and, for the most part, measurable. We only usually get the types of clients who are interested in being on the front of the wave. I have to remind them not to ask me ‘what are best practices.’ There are no best practices, only new practices.”

Image credit: Richard Tao via Unsplash

Gloria Johns headshot

Gloria Johns' career has included her work as a columnist for Scripps-Howard, Gannett and Tribune News Service. She writes for the San Angelo Standard Times and the West Texas Angelus. Previously she was a special features reporter for San Angelo LIVE! Gloria also has nearly thirty years of award-winning grant writing experience for federal, state and county funds to support social, medical, educational and arts projects. She has enjoyed a successful career in telecommunications and nonprofit management. "Gloria is a Purdue University graduate. She has also attended Angelo State University for graduate courses and studied Texas Family Law at Sam Houston State University. She lives just on the edge of the Chihuahua desert in west Texas.

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