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There is a growing global conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout society. People worldwide are speaking up for the fundamental values of equality and justice in all aspects of life – that social justice and equality are imperative values on their own.


From tech companies to education institutions, e-blasts and social media posts show support, while some companies move forward with embedding DEI policy, education and action into their operations.


In the pet industry alone, the Pet Sustainability Coalition witnessed 49 companies and almost 500 individuals participate in a one-month challenge in September 2020 to engage in 1,000 Actions Towards Diversity, Equity And Inclusion. 6,358 actions were recorded.


diversity equity inclusion challenge results

Yet many of us in the pet industry are just entering the conversation, and understandably struggle with how to engage ourselves and our company’s stakeholders in the journey of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in our businesses. Given the size and impact of the global pet industry, it presents an enormous opportunity to advance the values and practices of diversity, equity and inclusion among all stakeholders.


But first, what do these terms mean? How can we use these terms to be effective in action? This article looks at the terms, concepts and resources that can help us in this leadership opportunity to lift all stakeholders in the pet industry.


What is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

It is easy to get mixed up on the definitions. To have conversations, set goals and start action plans, we need first to ensure we are on the same page as to how to use these terms.


Diversity refers to the presence of difference within a setting. In the context of the workplace and your company’s stakeholders, we are referring to the diversity of identities, including race, gender, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Diversity is not appropriately used to describe an individual.


“Diversity is often used as a euphemism. People say ‘we are working to diversify our upper management,’ instead of ‘we are working to ensure there are more women and people of color in our upper-management roles.’”


Our businesses touch many different kinds of people. From our employees and colleagues to our suppliers and customers, we likely have much more diversity among our stakeholders than we realize.


What kinds of diversity exist within your company? Within your team? How might you increase diversity in your company and/or team?



In the context of opportunity, whether for education, hiring, advancement, the concept of equity addresses the advantages and barriers that exist between different groups of people. A couple of examples:

  • “(A hiring-process study) found that candidates with ‘white-sounding’ names’ (Greg and Emily) were 50% more likely to receive a call-back that (those) with “African-American-sounding names’ (Lakisha and Jamal)” (Bolger, ibid).
  • The same study found that female candidates with identical resumes and criteria as male candidates were considered less competent, less worthy of being hired and offered a lower salary (Bolger, ibid).
  • The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index 2020 reports a 13.5% difference between men’s and women’s median income among the 37 OECD countries.


Bolger notes, “Equity is a process that begins by acknowledging that unequal starting place and makes a commitment to correct and address the imbalance.” What other advantages and barriers in hiring, advancement and pay do you think exist? In what ways might you start to correct any imbalance within your company or team?


Okay, so that’s diversity – a presence of difference – and equity – a correction of imbalances in opportunity and outcomes, but what does inclusion mean?  Inclusion in this context refers to a sense of acceptance, belonging, respect and being valued.


“The process of inclusion engages each individual and makes people feel valued as being essential to the success of the organization.”

– Global Diversity Practice, What is Diversity & Inclusion?

Inclusion involves a process that acknowledges and addresses the experiences of all identities in the organization. Ask your team: What barriers stand in the way of all identities feeling welcome and belonging to the group? What is the experience of individuals within each identity group among all stakeholders of the business?


diversity in the pet industry

Next Steps for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Pet Industry


There will continue to be confusion about the use of these terms. By sharing your understanding of these terms, you can help others gain understanding and participate in the conversations. This will also help your team understand and contribute to new hiring practices, language use, and other actions that you will take to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within your business.

There are many resources to support your process. You might start with hiring practices outlined in 7 Practices to Improve Diversity and Inclusion. Participate in webinars that address these topics. Bring resources into your organization. Start with some videos or other media that discuss best practices to advance DEI in your organization. Partner with local or regional advocacy groups and cultural groups to help you. Hire an expert DEI consultant to help you develop and implement a plan.


Remember, you are not alone. Notice how engaged the pet industry got with just one challenge. We look forward to sharing the journey with you.


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