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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) across the consumer value chain

A North American perspective

Globally, the consumer industry is touching people's lives in a meaningful way every day. It’s no secret that consumers are becoming increasingly socially conscious. They expect brands they support to be socially responsible with more action and accountability. Moreover, consumer buying power is more diverse than ever and organizations that do not reflect the needs of their diverse customer base may lose increasing market share. Hence, incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has become a business and moral imperative for organizations today.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) across the consumer value chain

Conventional DEI advice focuses predominantly on the corporate employee experience – increasing recruitment and retention of diverse candidates. While this is integral to a successful DEI strategy, a comprehensive evaluation of DEI across the full value chain provides a view of where additional change may be needed and what consumer organizations can put in place today to create working environments where people thrive and find meaning in their work.

This report, the first in its series, begins by setting the stage for the challenges facing the industry within North America today. It leverages Deloitte’s Equity Activation Model to provide practical, implementable recommendations for how consumer leaders can drive initiatives across their Workforce, Marketplace, and Society.

Subsequent reports will deep dive into various regions across the world—providing tailored and locally relevant recommendations to support consumer leaders across the globe.

DEI across the value chain

For many organizations, DEI initiatives tend to focus predominantly on the experiences of corporate employees, leaving out a large and significant part of the consumer industry working force—frontline employees. These employees often work directly with customers daily and are often the first and most impactful experience that a customer has with the organization. Improving their sense of belonging and purpose at the organization is also key to ensuring long-term operational success and lower overall attrition.

Actions for organizations to address DEI in their workforce:

  • Expanding conversations around equity by including on-the-ground employees to create working environments that welcome and include varying lifestyle needs, from physical accessibility to neurodiversity
  • Making DEI a core element of performance assessment and reviews of business performance at all levels
  • Evaluating existing processes and practices for potential bias or exclusionary behavior
  • Innovating to hire diverse talent by recruiting from ‘non-traditional’ sources such as local organizations working with underrepresented groups and communities

By emphasizing DEI on all levels of the organization and increasing the opportunities available to frontline workers, organizations stand to gain loyalty from both their workforce and customers.

A comprehensive evaluation of DEI within consumer organizations spans much beyond the workforce, but across the entire supply chain. A supply chain is considered “diverse” when the manufacturer, supplier, and/or distributor is at least 51% owned and operated by an individual or group that is part of a traditionally unrepresented group. These could include small-business enterprises (SBEs), minority-owned enterprises (MBEs), women-owned enterprises (WBEs), or enterprises owned by disabled veterans or the LGBTQA community. Ensuring diverse representation in marketing and advertising helps consumer organizations demonstrate that they understand and respond to the needs of their increasingly diverse customer base.

Initiatives to increase DEI across the ecosystem:

  • Making supplier diversity a strategic priority, regardless of where an organization is on their journey toward a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture
  • Adopting a data-driven approach and setting meaningful goals by embedding executive targets, setting KPIs, and conducting audits of diversity spend and the economic impact of programs
  • Measuring and reporting success to track the effectiveness of an organization’s efforts

DEI extends beyond the four walls of an organization as consumers indicate their willingness to purchase from a brand that they view as inclusive or diverse. Deloitte’s State of the Consumer Tracker has highlighted the rise of the conscious shopper—consumers who increasingly make shopping decisions informed by the social responsibility and impact that they (and the organizations they support) make. Consumers are looking at the social conscience or purpose of the brands they interact with and rewarding those who meet their expectations with a visible commitment to DEI.

Key initiatives to address systemic challenges facing the communities that organizations operate in:

  • Establishing a community advisory council by engaging with local communities to understand local needs and thereby providing support where possible
  • Facilitating a two-way dialogue with customers to understand their concerns and how their experience can be improved
  • Monitoring the risk involved in not navigating the business through a DEI lens
  • Prioritizing diversity training for front-line employees and equipping them with the tools to address bias and customer concerns and thereby proactively improve the retail experience
  • Adopting and communicating a shared-values approach that integrates social priorities at the core of the organization’s business model


As DEI continues to be a major priority for consumers and employees alike, consumer organizations must quickly adapt to emerging and present demands to do better. By aligning organizational principles, priorities, and policies around advancing DEI in the workforce, marketplace, and society spheres, consumer organizations can address these concerns and become industry leaders. By challenging the status quo and implementing tangible change now, consumer organizations can lead the way for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future.