The power of culture is to give life meaning, value, interpretation and enjoyment. According to the Cultural Council, this became even clearer during the corona measures. Culture must therefore be accessible to Dutch people of all backgrounds. One of the instruments to achieve this is a code of diversity and inclusion. Can accountants learn anything from this?
Is such a code necessary, I wondered when I first heard about the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) code for museums, cabaret, opera, pop music, etc. The purpose of this code is that the cultural sector of Dutch society: equal accessible to all, so that the sector belongs to all.
The cultural sector knows many SME organizations, and accountants working in this sector know the code. Among other things, governments use this code when assessing grant applications, which often directly affect continuity. Can other auditors draw inspiration from that code as they work toward greater diversity and inclusion?
Words mean something
The D&I code has four pillars, the four Ps: Program, Public, Personnel and Partners. In the wording, there is much room for individual interpretation: “Not everyone must do everything, but everyone must do something.” The language is more informal than in other codes, with words like ‘you’ and ‘your organization’. There is active support to get started with an online platform for tips, (measuring) instruments and practical examples. My personal favorites in the code are “This is not a check box.” And: “Alone with a code of conduct, little or nothing will change.” Diversity and inclusion should be part of the work.
‘Inclusion is that not only are you invited to the party, but you can actually attend the dance floor.’
The first version of this code from 2011 only talked about diversity. The latest (2019) version adds inclusion. “Inclusion means that you are not only invited to the party, but you can also really participate on the dance floor,” Commissioner and Auditor Petri Hofsté recently quoted her colleague, Janine Vos. Diversity is a state of being, inclusion is an action. What kind of actions could it be?
Rijks, Van Gogh, Urban, Eye
In my research * I looked at how the management and supervision of four large museums in Amsterdam ensure that Code D&I is reflected in their programming. All four have created something of an internal organizational structure for this, assigned responsibilities and organized external advice. But in different forms, with which they use the space that the code offers: a think tank for the Slavery exhibition in Rijks, a separate advisory council for Van Gogh, an external inclusion council – including a supervisory board member – at Eye and Stedelijk there is an internal inclusion council.
What else stood out? The two collections of portable art that the Van Gogh Museum published along with the fashion brand Daily Paper. The anti-racism statement from the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in June 2020 and a measurable goal of spending 50 percent of the procurement budget on the work of colored artists and non-Western artists. Rijksmuseum’s courageous attempt to map the social and economic value of society in an impact monitor. And the pursuit of much more than just male / female diversity on the boards, including at the Eye Film Museum: in ethnic, cultural and religious background, gender identity, age and (work) disability. There are many ways to work at D&I.
Last year, all KPMG employees received a museum card from their employer. In this way, the auditing firm supported the cultural sector in the Netherlands in corona times and encouraged employees to go to museums. After all Art is an antidote, according to Bob & Roberta Smith, whose art from 2022 can be seen in Museum Voorlinden. Unfortunately not to visit with the museum card. But there are many museums, so do it if you have (received) such a card. And keep your senses open to expression of diversity and inclusion.
Corporate Governance Code
The D&I code is an instrument for self-regulation and not a control code in the narrow sense of the word. The consultation version of the Corporate Governance Code (February 2022) explicitly calls for “diversity and inclusion policies” for the first time. The concept of inclusion has recently been added and relates to “an organization’s ability to create a culture where every employee feels valued and respected, …” Several organizations must therefore address the formalization of D&I policy and questions from a code. .
No, not another code!
I do not think that a separate code for D&I is necessary for every sector in the Netherlands, also because the subject (already) finds its way to other codes, including the Corporate Governance Code.
‘Every organization must (would) work with diversity and inclusion.’
Every organization must (desire) work with diversity and inclusion. There are compelling social and business reasons for this. Auditors and the organizations they are involved in can be inspired by the cultural Code D&I: what about your employees and audiences (customers)? Which partners do you work with, and how do they make the organization more diverse and inclusive? And how does the programming – the services and products offered – contribute to more diversity, in addition to the contribution to bottom line†
† Irene Kramer’s concluding paper for the Commissioners’ Cycle at Nyenrode, on which this article is partly based, can be requested via a message to her on LinkedIn.