Sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion strategies

Anna Zelmo interview at niikiis

This week we interview Anna Zelno, specialist in intercultural competence, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and global talent. She is CEO of intercultures Spain & LATAM, co-founder of the Academy for Diversity & Innovation, a global learning platform; and president of the 4C Association for Social Innovation. She has been twice president of SIETAR Spain (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research) and member of the Board of SIETAR Europe. She leads the ICC Assessment working group at the World Council of Global and Intercultural Competence.


We will discuss the importance of designing and implementing sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. Diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly critical to business sustainability and competitiveness. Maintaining workforce engagement or improving employee productivity are key elements of many organisations' human resources strategy. All these concepts put the focus on the main asset of companies: people.

Welcome, Anna. Before we begin, we would like to know more about you and your passion for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Since I was a child I felt different and often had the feeling that I didn't fit in. I was a rebellious child with a strong sense of justice. I went against the tide, I liked to try new things, I was attracted by differences and I went in search of them. I grew up in a village in south-western Poland, at the age of 23 I emigrated to Germany, where I combined work and intercultural communication studies, and after 7 years I moved to Spain. My migration journey taught me about the importance of inclusion and allowed me to experience the potential of diversity. In 2011 I completed a master's degree in talent management which helped me connect my passion for diversity with talent management strategies. Today I co-design diversity, equity and inclusion strategies for both large companies and start-ups. With the intercultures team we support companies all over the world. In the Academy for Diversity and Innovation we have created a learning space for all those who want to become professionals in this sector, which is still a niche market as few consultancies have a more holistic view of diversity and look beyond gender.

Getting straight to the point, what is a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy?

It is a set of policies and processes that allow you to make the most of all the talent in the organisation, attract high potential people, create a sense of belonging that allows you to achieve the most ambitious business goals, and foster innovation and competitiveness of the company in the markets where it operates. Having a strategy is a business, legal and also a social imperative. A DEI strategy is certainly much more than a calendar of events that promote diversity.

What is corporate sustainability?

It is the ability to sustain the organisation's business or activity over the long term while respecting the environment in which it operates and creating economic, social and environmental value. We are talking about both the environment and the social environment inside and outside the organisation.

Why is it important to align diversity, equity and inclusion with sustainability when designing strategies?

Just because of the value that sustainability itself brings, so that they are sustained in the long term and allow to obtain a differential value. Sustainability strategies in their social pillar seek the same thing that an IED strategy seeks in its social justice dimension. Today, social justice is no longer just a social objective, it is also an economic objective. The awareness of employees and consumers continues to grow. We want to buy from companies that are socially responsible and we want to work in companies that care for the planet and its people.

How does it affect the employee's experience and the company's experience?

Values and corporate culture are the keys to attracting talent, especially young talent. Diversity attracts diversity. A person who feels 100% included with all their differences and who can be themselves without the need to fit in at all costs will be happier and therefore more creative, proactive and motivated. She dares to look for innovative solutions. And this is obviously reflected in the achievement of business objectives and in the company's bottom line.

What are the challenges of diversity, equity and inclusion?

Understand the concepts well and in depth. There is a lot of confusion and superficiality. There is a lack of strategic thinking. It seems to be like a fad. Many people still do not see the relationship between diversity and innovation, inclusion and productivity. There is a lack of awareness of the tools that exist in the world to measure diversity and inclusion, psychological safety, the maturity of strategies, etc. There is also a lack of data and studies carried out outside the US.

What advice would you give for optimal design and implementation?

Connecting DEI's strategy with the business and sustainability strategy. This also means getting out of the silo of the HR department and connecting with the business, with product development, with marketing and communication, with the internationalisation department. And in multinational companies, connecting with people in other countries responsible for the DEI in order to be aligned at a global level.


We would like to thank Anna Zelno for sharing some of her knowledge with us. To learn more about the importance of designing and implementing sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion strategies, do not hesitate to connect to our next live broadcast on 3 February at 18h on our Youtube channel: We will be interviewing Anna Zelno in full to cover all aspects of the importance of designing and implementing sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.

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