We here at TriplePundit are proud of the breadth of sustainability and social impact news that we’ve been able to provide to our readers — with a very small staff — since 2005. We’re slight in staffing, but can boast of a mighty team; and our crew of writers this past year is no different. We’re highlighting a few of our more compelling interviews during 2022; discussions about race and the workplace have been a continued theme of late, and we don’t see ourselves veering away from this topic at any point soon.
In any event, it isn't possible to have great interviews without thoughtful, smart and outstanding interviewees — so we list some here.
Plenty of business leaders are fearful of being branded as “woke,” especially those who are at the helm of smaller companies. Entrepreneurs, however, can stay committed to social impact by weaving their values into the core of their businesses — that is, according to disability advocate, author and DEI (diversity, inclusion and equity) consultant Alison Tedford. What’s more, by being genuine and proactive, these entrepreneurs can avoid the trappings of scandal and “cancel culture.”
A public and up-front DEI plan may appear risky at first, but the dividends pay off, insisted Tedford as she took time for interviews with Riya Ann Polcastro for a two-part series published this past spring. From Tedford’s perspective, “[DEI] isn’t about repackaging anything,” she said. “It’s about honoring what exists and presenting opportunities for growth.”
Further, Tedford suggested that companies ensure they apply DEI to all aspects of business in a way that creates a culture of inclusion for customers and employees alike. When it comes to customer service, this won’t eliminate the inevitable entitled guest, client or customer who appears now and again, but in the end, everyone will be better off, as the company will have an easier time attracting clients and customers with shared values.
Over the past several months, Roya Sabri showcased the thoughts Illinois-based DEI consultant Kim Crowder. During their talks, Crowder made the case for corporate racial audits, called out companies for crass Juneteenth promotions and explained why highlighting “first” and “seconds” only reminds us that the system is failing when it comes to recognizing the achievements of Black women.
Crowder also made it clear that when it comes to the most volatile social issues of our time, it behooves companies to take a stand. Speaking to Sabri after mass murder of schoolchildren and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, she reminded our readers that companies don’t need to have employees who are personally affected in order to act. "[If] your team members are in some way impacted, then it should be a priority for you,” Crowder said.
And, while political movement can take some time, office safety policies can be enacted immediately. “You’d be surprised how many companies do not have these policies already in place,” she added.
The majority of American workers are meeting the call to return to the office with less than resounding enthusiasm; Black women have been near-unanimous in their desire to remain remote or at least, switch to a hybrid model. This reality is thanks in part to the reprieve they’ve experienced from microaggressions and harassment while working from home. Of course, returning to the office shouldn’t require Black women to sacrifice their mental health. Instead, Tara Jaye Frank, equity strategist and author of The Waymakers (May 2022), sees an opportunity for company executives to address diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in their organizations and create environments that encourage everyone to reach their full potential, thus retaining talent and boosting their companies’ success.
Frank told Polcastro earlier this year that her book’s title describes her audience: “People who make a way for those that have been left behind.” Inspired by her work with high-level executives, she is confident that those in leadership positions want to do the right thing, and she is eager to show them how. “Leaders don’t show up looking to harm people,” she said. “This is about building the capacity to be more equitable.”
Frank further recommended that as company employees return to the office, executives must take their employees’ mental health seriously — especially when it comes to Black women. “Whenever there is toxicity in any environment, it always harms the marginalized the most,” she said.
Dismissing employees’ well-being and mental health results in a beleaguered workforce: Employees end up doubting their own abilities, and it becomes too painful for them to be so invested in their job. Instead of being able to fully contribute, they are forced to focus on self-preservation.
Although 90 percent of U.S.-based companies claim to prioritize DEI, only 4 percent consider disability as part of those initiatives. With more than 1 billion people globally living with a disability, that’s a costly disconnect, said Dannie Lynn Fountain, an author, DEI expert and human resources staffer at Google.
In her interview this fall with Gary E. Frank, Fountain said corporate announcements of diversity programs or internal resources for people with disabilities isn’t going far enough. That is merely “performative allyship,” Fountain told TriplePundit, as companies and individuals often say they support or seek to ally themselves with marginalized identities “purely for the way it appears, purely for the performance of it.”
Companies looking to attract people with disabilities can start by reexamining their outreach to potential job candidates, Fountain advised — and that is particularly important when it comes to vetting job candidates who are neurodiverse. “So many organizations, when they get an application in or even when they are cold sourcing for candidates, the first step is to jump on the phone with the recruiter, let's have a quick 15-minute chat,” she said. “First of all, even if you're not neurodiverse, if you're introverted, if you get nervous, if you get anxious, that phone call isn't going to be the best way to sell yourself.” There’s a simple yet better way, as Fountain explained to Frank.
Americans love pets. And, Americans adopted cats and dogs at record rates during the pandemic. Nevertheless, at any given time nearly 48 million cats and dogs don’t have a home in the U.S. For years, workers and volunteers at animal shelters have faced an uphill battle as they struggle to find people willing to adopt these animals. It’s not that there’s an oversupply — the "neuter and spade" campaigns of yesteryear have worked. The problem starts with the fact that software systems used to monitor homeless cats and dogs are similar to what is used by prisons across the U.S.
“For every pet at an animal shelter, there’s an estimated eight people willing and ready to take them home,” Dr. Ellen Jefferson, an animal welfare advocate, longtime pet shelter veterinarian, and president and CEO of an animal shelter in Austin, Texas, told 3p during an interview in February. “But the problem is that the industry hasn’t been able to modernize in order to meet demand. There’s no longer an ‘infestation,’ but there are hundreds of barriers we face in finding these pets a new home.”
Companies can help — here’s how.
Image credit: Isabela Kronemberger via Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.