ADM Cloudtech, a dedicated business in the ADM group focused on cloud management services, is the next Estonian company to sign the Estonian Diversity Charter. The Charter is a voluntary agreement that connects companies, NGOs and public sector organisations who believe in respecting human diversity and equal treatment of all people in their respective companies.
By signing the Charter, these companies confirm that they intend to abide by and uphold the principles set forth by the Charter. Estonian biggest news portal sat down with Klemens Arro, board member at ADM Interactive and ADM Cloudtech, to talk more about diversity and equality within Estonian companies, ADM group and ADM Cloudtech.
In your personal opinion, do Estonian companies pay enough attention to diversity within the company? Is diversity considered to be important?
In general, companies do focus on diversity, but those companies that wish to offer top tier services and products on an international market tend to consider a diverse working environment where people are treated equally more important than some companies that are only active on the Estonian market. I also believe that a diverse environment creates great conditions for different opinions and ideas, which in turn promotes innovation. And finally, since the whole world is competing to get highly skilled employees to work for them, then it would be stupid to limit your own possibilities because of someone’s religion, race, gender, political leanings or sexuality. It is all actually rather simple: if you want to be successful and sustainable in the long-term, then you must consider everyone as equal and respect the people around you. Otherwise, any success you have will likely be short-lived or only local.
Recent history has taught as well enough about what happens when a state tells people what a proper citizen is, what kinds of beliefs and values people must have, and which countries companies can and cannot cooperate with. It is unlikely that anyone of us truly misses these times of more equal than equals and more right than the right.
Why is ADM joining this Charter only now? Why did you not do it earlier?
This Charter had somehow passed us by earlier. When we “discovered” the Charter, we thought that it would be a good way to show ADM’s employees, our clients, partners, and the society as a whole that treating people equally is important to us. And we hope that it encourages and inspires others to focus more on this topic as well.
Joining the Charter is actually only the first step for us. We decided from the start that after joining the Charter, we will aim to apply for the “Diverse Workplace label”, which, in addition to everything I mentioned before, will also give us a good opportunity for validating ourselves.
What was the trigger event in your group that made you realise for the first time that diversity is important and that you need to focus more on it? Was it a case of discrimination?
Luckily, we have not had any such cases. Since diversity and equal treatment have always been self-evident and obvious values to us, then we just never brought any separate attention to it.
But when we got acquainted with the Diversity Charter, we realised that it is a good checklist to use to systematically analyse ourselves better and to ensure that there would be no discrimination in the future either. In other words, we aim to prevent not deal with consequences. Additionally, this is a great chance to show both to our employees as well as external viewers that we treat all people equally.
You are signing the Charter only now. What will this Charter change for you? What are you expecting to get out of it?
Although yes, we are only signing the Charter now, then we have followed the principles laid out in the Charter since the dawn of ADM. It is very important to us to ensure that ADM’s employees can rely on us supporting and favouring a diverse team where everyone has equal opportunities. We have followed this principle, which for us has always been a logical thing to do, since we founded ADM in the last century, and we have based our personnel politics and company culture around this principle and, at least so far, we have been successful in implementing it.
On the other hand, we also wish to showcase more widely that for society as a whole, diversity is an important pillar that also supports many other values and that only by ensuring diversity are we able to work together successfully.
Positive diversity is definitely important to people, but how does supporting and promoting diversity affect an organisation? Does it also bring any economic gain?
All companies in the world consist of people – experts in their field who together form an organisation or, in a sense, a small community. How well or badly this community works depends mainly on its members and a little bit on how the community is being run. A company where the workplace environment is bad is not able to offer great services or working solutions because its employees are not working together as efficiently as they should or could. Sooner or later – and by the way, in general it is sooner – this will also affect the companies economic results. And not in a positive way.
If you look at it the other way around – if team members are valued for their skills and if everything else that makes all of us special in a good way is seen as a positive enhancement, then this will be reflected in the business results.
By the way, we work for various human rights and charity organisations, such as Amnesty International, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Ma armastan aidata (“I love to help”) etc. Because of this, we are well-aware of what kinds of problems these companies face and how they are working to resolve them. This also gives us the opportunity to implement their good practices in our team.
So there are definite benefits, but what about risks? Can you see any possible risks stemming from an agreement like this Charter?
Even in the case of the most positive initiatives, there will always exist someone who does not like them. Either because it does not match up with their personal values or their understanding of how the society or their political leanings. Here is a simple example: although many things get done very quickly with the help of the donations of kind people, then there will always be a lot people who will never do anything for anyone out of the goodness of their heart, without expecting anything in return. Even worse, sometimes those people will even derogate those who do donate. In that sense, there is the theoretical risk that someone will indeed be bothered by the fact that we are publicly supporting and promoting diversity. But I am quite sure that there are no such people in ADM – our personnel politics have been very strong on following the conviction that each person is unique and special. I think that diversity is a value in itself that helps enrich a company’s culture as well as the society as a whole.
How are you planning to lower this risk for ADM?
I do not actually know if we could call this theoretical chance a risk. It is still a very marginal hypothetical risk, especially since we have always been rather clear and open about our values. All of our employees know them, agree with them, and share them, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone.
And if someone really does feel conflicted about the Charter, then what can we do. You cannot please everyone.
Projects like this, that do not create direct economic gains, tend to be short-lived or even just one-off projects. How will you ensure that this will not happen here?
It is actually very simple. Although we have not hired and are not planning to hire an equality commissioner, then the board at ADM will be responsible for the sustainability of this project. As a board member, I will be responsible for ensuring that the values in the Diversity Charter will be upheld by the people in our company today and in the future. Of course, I am not alone either – the values in the Charter are also upheld and supported by all the other board members and all the employees at ADM.
As our plan is to apply for the Diverse Workplace label after signing the Charter, then during the application process, we will have to work more systematically with diversity in ADM for the next two years. I am sure that in that time, we will create even more efficient and sustainable ways of dealing with diversity.
There are many important points in the Charter that help ensure that a workplace is a friendly and good place to work in. But do you think the Charter is missing any important points?
The full text of the Charter, which is available to everyone online, is completely logical and brings all the important points together in one legible text. I have not noticed anything missing from it. And in the case of ADM, that is a very good first step to take for starting the application process for the Diverse Workplace label.
Do you also follow these principles of diversity outside of just your company? For example, do you choose your biggest partners based on their diversity or are you planning to do that?
Yes, to an extent, we definitely do. There is more to this than just the quality of the service offered by the partner. As a leader, in addition to ethical questions, I also have to consider the fact that our people will have to be in contact with these partners on a daily basis. And if a partner does not respect people or treat them with equality, then those of our people who have to communicate with such a partner will definitely be affected by that kind of treatment.
It is also worth noting that in the case of international deals, many contracts signed in both the private and public sectors, especially the latter, include the requirement to respect the principles of equal treatment and to ensure that these principles are being followed by all parties involved in the contract. Due to this, even we are sometimes obligated to ensure such behaviour.