How is diversity like sustainability? Both have a business edge that reaches far beyond the afterglow of doing the right thing. And much like sustainability, diversity isn’t catching on at wildfire rates, last week’s Quick Poll reveals. In fact, only 47% of our respondents claim an inclusive shop. Commentator Audrey Murrell, associate professor of business administration, psychology, public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business, has conducted research on the measurable returns of diversity. She wouldn’t go on the record and quantify those returns (she says they’re too general to be meaningful to a specific sector), but they’re there, she promises. The implication is clear: Diversity pays. Here’s why:

“We’ve known for quite a while that there is a measurable return on investment for paying attention to diversity in the organization. So any time you’re able to increase the talent pool and increase the diversity of experience and ideas in the workplace, you’re going to see an impact. And when those people come with talent and knowledge and skills, you’re going to see a positive impact.

“Each diverse group brings a unique perspective. There is some data to suggest, for example, that on issues related to ethics, there is a tendency for a gender difference in terms of how men versus women perceive, and more importantly react to, ethical violations.

“Now that does not mean that one is more ethical than the other, but that the reaction to or the level of tolerance is different. But some data supports that and some does not. “Diversity doesn’t make people more or less ethical as individuals. Let’s say we’re talking about a top management team or a board of directors. What happens is that the more diverse a team is, the more likely the team is to handle challenging, complex, high-risk problems, such as ethical issues.

“A lot of people argue that the market does not respond to diversity. Our data proves that the market does respond when firms do things that are socially responsible, particularly surrounding diversity.”

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