It is vital for society that products and services are inclusive of all, do not promote gender or racial stereotypes, are accessible to all persons without discrimination.
The main point of the impact assessment is to analyse where particular products or services fall in relation to discriminatory or inclusive practices. This should be treated if specific products or services are inaccessible, promote discrimination, and harms groups. Or, on the contrary, if the company's operations are actively promoting equality and diversity, breaking down stereotypes, or are developing new ways of making things accessible.
Think about the company's main business area, and evaluate whether there are limitations in terms of equality and diversity or if there are products and/or services driving inclusion.
Then, look at the company's specific output, and determine if they are closing or widening these gaps.
Caution: This topic is different from "Employee Inclusion" and "Employee Gender Diversity', and should not cover the makeup of the staff or inclusion/gender equality of the company's hierarchy.
How to treat it?
The introduction serves to present the issue and contextualise the actions of the company.
Disclose and quantify the broader issue at hand (minority inclusion, gender equality).
Elaborate on the more specific issue addressed by the products/services in question (gendered nature of toys, for example).
You should also include some discussion of how the products/services are related to this issue - do they usually help? Hinder? In what ways? How is this important for society?
Include statistics that back up the statements made and serve to show the severity of the problem.
Read more on how to build a strong introduction in this article.
The core analysis needs to show what the company is doing, why this has an impact, and how significant the impact is.
What are the company's market share and main business activities?
Assess the company's products and services offered and which flagship products/services may drive or impede diversity, equality, and inclusion.
Equally, you can look into advertising, whether they include women and minorities, and if this is in ways that contribute to or detract from stereotypes.
Describe how this impacts gender equality and/or minority inclusion. Be as quantitative as possible.
Show the range of the impact, what is the numerical and geographical reach of these products or services, i.e., roughly how many customers they have and where are most of these customers based?
If discussing a negative impact, you can mention whether or not there have been attempts to address the problem. Alternatively, if discussing a positive impact, remember to remain critical.
Caution: do not address a small part of the company's business without considering the bigger picture. For instance, if a company has primarily inaccessible products but showcases a small minority, that is more accessible. It is always worth digging deeper to find the overall inclusivity or exclusivity.
Helpful Examples that are Industry-Specific:
For instance, in the media & entertainment industry, there can be a lack of diversity in lead characters, and the characterisation of women and minorities may perpetuate stereotypes.
Another example is in internet media & services, including social media companies. In this industry, algorithms are used extensively to promote pages and content. These algorithms can either boost women and minority voices and platform inclusive content or, to the contrary, can obscure women and minorities. Equally, social media may not be showing the same content to all users. For instance, they might show adverts for jobs in male-dominated industries predominantly to men.
Household and personal products are also crucial industries to tackle for this topic. For this industry, the key is to identify gaps in access to essential goods or the company's main products offered. For example, period products are difficult to access for many women, beauty products are often designed for lighter skin shades, cleaning tools are not user-friendly by people with certain disabilities, etc. To analyse this topic, you must identify what kind of inequality exists and the company's contribution to such inequalities or how they combat it.
Companies in the software & IT industry have specific hurdles regarding diversity and inclusion as this industry is developing new products faster than most, setting the standards for future development. For example, facial recognition software is less-effective at identifying people of colour.
Hardware and other manufacturing industries can also significantly impact societies, as designs are not always inclusionary of all. Products may be more challenging to use for women and minorities. For example, the increase in the size of some smartphones are being criticised for making it harder to use for people with smaller hands - primarily women.
How to Quantify the Impact
The ideal analysis on this topic would be to conduct a comprehensive review of all products or services offered by the company, numerically assessing the degree to which they promote and/or hinder diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups.
If this is not possible, another option is to highlight the flagship products/brands that have a significant impact.
For example, when assessing period products, consider not only the quantity (number of products sold or services used) but also by whom and how widely accessible they are. As a secondary point, you can mention the affordability/in-affordability and, therefore, exclusion and geographical reach.
To describe the scale of the impact, taking into account:
1/ The breadth of the impact
Is the impact local, national, or global?
How many people are concerned? Thousands? Millions? Billions?
2/ The depth of the impact
Is the life of people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?
Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?
3/ The persistence of the impact
In your analysis, make sure you add value to your readers and go beyond the company's CSR report by not merely reporting data from the company's report but going the extra mile of providing additional metrics, studies, and sources to make your analysis robust and the impact value and scale are clear.