WeAreOpen’s Year in Review: Navigating the ESG Era and Redefining Corporate Diversity

The year 2023 marked a pivotal moment in the history of WeAreOpen, as the organization celebrated its 10th anniversary. This milestone not only symbolizes a decade of tireless advocacy but also signifies a transformative shift from a purely activist organization to a comprehensive diversity and inclusion service-provider NGO. In this blog post, we will delve into the challenges faced by corporate sustainability in 2023, highlighting the rise of the Anti-ESG movement and the evolving landscape of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and WeAreOpen’s strategic narrative on the above.

Catalysts and Minefields for Corporate Diversity Efforts

2024 is the year of momentum for corporate sustainability. ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) considerations have become a paramount focus for European businesses, with over 50,000 companies actively seeking reporting solutions as they have to comply with EU’s Corporate Social Responsibility Directive. In this dynamic landscape, WeAreOpen emerges as a key ally, specializing in the social and partly the governance dimension of ESG.

Meanwhile, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives faced unprecedented challenges in 2023 in the US, encountering opposition from conservative politicians. States like Florida and Texas even enacted laws restricting the practice of DEI.

Simultaneously, the anti-ESG movement gained momentum, subjecting companies to scrutiny on environmental, social, and governance fronts. Notable brands like M&Ms, Target, and Bud Light faced protests, leading to a phenomenon known as "greenhushing”, where companies chose silence amid controversies. 

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Winds of Change

As a result, DEI funding and staffing experienced a downturn after a two-year boom following the George Floyd protests in 2020. Businesses, while maintaining their commitment to diversity, adapted their strategies to navigate legal complications. Shifting towards hiring based on socioeconomic diversity and altering job requirements became focal points, moving away from explicit demographic-based goals.

Some companies, like Blackstone, rebranded their DEI approach, emphasizing socioeconomic diversity over traditional metrics. The terminology evolved from the explicit use of "DEI" to broader concepts like "well-being and inclusion," reflecting a nuanced approach to enact change without sparking controversy.

The Future of Corporate Diversity

On the one hand, we have to acknowledge that the corporate landscape is undergoing a transformation in how DEI is approached, emphasizing more nuanced and inclusive language. Concepts like "employee experience" and "wellness" are emerging as new narratives, falling under the broader umbrella of inclusion without explicitly referencing traditional DEI terms.

On the other hand, a Bloomberg Intelligence survey reveals that businesses and investors continue to prioritize ESG even in the US - a very important part of which directly involces DEI - , acknowledging the benefits outweighing the risks. According to Bloomberg’s survey, 84% of executives say ESG helps deliver a more robust corporate strategy and 85% of investors reported that ESG leads to better returns, resilient portfolios and enhanced fundamental analysis”.
WeAreOpen: Nóra Várady CEO and Sásdi Helga Chair of Board
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WeAreOpen's Visionary Impact and Their Response to the ESG Era

Despite and pushback in the US, according to the above Bloomberg survey, 85% of global companies and investors plan to increase their ESG investment in the next five years, with 55% considering ESG as one of their top two priorities

In the meantime, CSRD in the EU requires companies to report on areas like employee welfare, labor practices, workforce diversity, inclusive practices, equitable employment, accessibility, supplier diversity and so on. 

The emerging trend of prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion for fiscal benefits is not exclusive to the western part of the European Union and the USA. Hungary and the CEE region are also making strides to align with this trend. Despite the political saturation surrounding the concept, companies are not merely interested in discussing it; they are eager to take tangible actions.

Their objectives extend beyond rhetoric, aiming to revolutionize the representation of women on boards, eliminate the gender pay gap, adeptly navigate multicultural and multigenerational differences, provide opportunities to underrepresented groups, and manifest their commitment to openness in their employer brand. Achieving these goals requires more than just intention; it demands practical steps.

This realization underscores the visionary thinking of WeAreOpen's founders. What this organisation has been advocating for in the past 10 years is now becoming a top business priority and legal requirement. 

To support companies in this journey, WeAreOpen stands ready to assist organizations in turning their DEI aspirations into concrete achievements. In 2023, under the leadership of Helga Sásdi, chair of the board, and new CEO, Nóra Várady, WeAreOpen focused on strengthening its service portfolio that offers comprehensive solutions for companies to strategically build and implement an open corporate culture. Leveraging their 10-year know-how, WeAreOpen is now equipped to provide a full spectrum of social sustainability-related services, from auditing and surveying to strategy-making and implementation.


WeAreOpen Yearly Report 2023
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WeAreOpen’s evolution from advocacy to a full-service diversity and inclusion solution provider NGO, positions us as a frontrunner and thought-leader of diversity and inclusion in Hungary. Our service portfolio enables us to create substantial DEI impact in partner companies, supporting them in meeting the diverse expectations of employees, investors, stakeholders, and customers related to social sustainability. Ultimately, this initiative aims to generate more value and profit for society.

As we toast to 2024, it is evident that the organization's journey reflects the dynamic shifts in corporate landscapes, from navigating minefields of controversy to embracing a holistic approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The challenges of 2023 have set the stage for a future where sustainability, ESG, and social responsibility are integral components of successful business models. WeAreOpen's commitment to driving change and providing tangible solutions positions us as a key player in shaping the future of corporate diversity and sustainability. 

Thank you for everyone who supports us in this journey. 

2023 has been full of wonderful results and impact. We created a nationwide media campaign with the participation of 34 business leaders and thanks to our media partners, could reach millions of people with our message. We addressed Roma and LGBTQ inclusion and corporate gender equality best practices during our events. 300 people attended our Open Conference, 500 people marched with our business community at Pride and we have 1134 companies as signatories of our manifesto. We provided diversity and inclusion-related services to 20 companies. 

If you or your company would like to join as a member or is need of DEI-related services, please get in touch with us now or book a meeting. 

As Europe intensifies its commitment to sustainability, WeAreOpen stands ready to assist companies in navigating the complexities of the social pillar of ESG, offering tailored solutions that extend beyond compliance. Our expertise lies in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, fostering employee well-being, and facilitating meaningful community engagement.

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