Talking the walk: how Swiss companies are communicating their DE&I journey

Addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has become a complex challenge for companies in today’s ever-changing landscape. Socio-political developments and recent events, which include the exposure of non-inclusive practices by companies and their CEOs, the amplification of such incidents through social media, and the looming risk to reputations, have highlighted the complexities that companies face when conveying their commitment to DE&I efforts.

This has led to a noticeable reticence in communicating DE&I efforts. Companies are treading carefully, seeking legal counsel, meticulously examining the language used in job advertisements, and reevaluating DE&I policies to avoid misinterpretation or legal repercussions.

Nevertheless, stakeholder expectations are high, and companies must find their own way to demonstrate commitment to DE&I.

Full results are in the whitepaper!

An in-depth look into DE&I communication

Our latest analysis builds on our flagship .trust research and aims to guide companies in finding their voice when it comes to DE&I. We investigate how 39 of the biggest Swiss companies communicate their DE&I strategy and vision, objectives, actions, advocacy as well as leadership’s position on related topics.

The research protocol, comprising of over 70 criteria, was created by merging the DE&I criteria identified in our .trust research with supplementary assessment factors. The companies were selected based on their existing levels of transparency and performance in .trust.

In the latest edition of the research, we have introduced a 5-stage DE&I Communication Maturity Scale, inspired by Harvard Business Review’s Five Stages of DEI Maturity model, to help companies assess and understand their progress in communicating their strategic approach to DE&I. The model places companies in one of 5 categories, from “Aware” to “Mature”, based on their approach to communicating DE&I. 

Going beyond gender

The results of this Swiss edition confirm that companies are reluctant to disclose information about DE&I topics, with most of the sample focusing on compliance, addressing generic topics such as gender at board level, despite the evolving demand from stakeholders for a more comprehensive approach encompassing various dimensions such as age, culture, and disability.

Although several companies discuss DE&I aspects beyond gender, such as LGTBQI+ (46%) and nationality/ethnicity (44%), their focus tends to be constrained to addressing it in the view of diversity, with only 8% of companies presenting concrete and quantifiable commitments to equity and inclusion. 

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DE&I as a cross-cutting topic

Effective DE&I communication should reflect the strategic vision and corporate purpose underlining the need for an authentic, distinctive, and contextually nuanced DE&I message that avoids generic statements.

Despite 74% of Swiss companies integrating DE&I into their sustainability strategies, this integration often remains siloed within sustainability or careers sections, with only 8% seamlessly integrating their DE&I commitment into their overall corporate narratives. By integrating their strategic DE&I priorities into the narrative of the business strategy and purpose, companies can effectively convey their commitment to attracting diverse talent, fuelling innovation, and maximizing their positive impact on society. 

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The role of leadership

In today’s global business landscape, top management’s role helps shape the company’s image, values, and societal impact, making the external promotion of DE&I not just an ethical imperative, but also a strategic lever. 

Although many companies actively engage with DE&I on corporate LinkedIn accounts (62%), senior leadership’s involvement is limited, with only 15% of CEOs addressing DE&I topics on their personal LinkedIn profiles. Our research highlights the pivotal role of leadership-driven external communication in driving meaningful change.

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Does your company need support in communicating DE&I or other sustainability topics?

Our research methodologies are carefully crafted for companies looking to improve their communication and build trust with stakeholders. The DE&I edition of .trust is a practical tool to help steer internal discussions concerning DE&I topics, all while proactively addressing external expectations and fostering credibility among stakeholders. Along with a comprehensive analysis of your company, we also offer international benchmarks that are tailor made to suit your needs.

DE&I 2023 whitepaper


Request a copy of the whitepaper 

Eleonora Leenders

Companies included

ABB, Adecco, Barry Callebaut, Buhler Holding AG, Clariant, Coop, Dormakaba, Dufry, Firmenich, Georg Fischer, Givaudan, Helvetia, Holcim, Julius Baer, Lonza, Migros, Nestlé, Novartis, OC Oerlikon, Partners Group, Philip Morris, Richemont, Roche, SBB, Schindler, Sika, SIX Group, Sonova, Straumann, Suva Insurance, Swiss Life, Swiss Post, Swiss Re, Swisscom, Syngenta, VAT Group, UBS, Zürcher Kantonalbank Zurich Insurance.