Diversity & Inclusion? “It’s not a nice-to-have, it is a business imperative. In a fast-changing world, only through a diverse pool of talent will we be able to bring innovation and create new effective solutions that can overcome societal challenges across the world. That’s the real asset.” If a “pink-washing” exists, a fake D&I for marketing ends, Lorena Dellagiovanna - Vice President and Executive Officer, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Deputy Chief Environmental Officer of Hitachi Group - has a thoroughly opposite vision. The top manager met the participants in SDA Bocconi’s Full-Time MBA 2021 and 2022 editions for a Leadership Series meeting organized by the Industry&Ops and Ethica Clubs and coordinated by Catherine E. De Vries, Dean for D&I at Bocconi University. The message Dellagiovanna gave them could not be clearer: today, diversity is a competitive factor for companies and a driver of development for society.
Dellagiovanna’s belief seems to have found fertile ground at Hitachi, and has grown and strengthened within a company that has integrated the value of D&I with the idea that the development of superior, original technology can contribute to social innovation. “Founded in 1910 in the small town of the same name in the North-East of Japan, from its very beginning Hitachi decided to contribute to society by developing the first original Japanese technology (until then technology was bought from abroad)”, Dellagiovanna recalled. Today, Hitachi accounts for over 800 companies worldwide with 350,000 employees and an 80-billion-dollar turnover, more than 50% of which is now generated outside Japan. The Group is developing in multiple fields: mobility, IT, energy, smart-life and healthcare. Hitachi has expanded massively in Italy through M&A (Ansaldo Breda, Ansaldo STS on a local level and ABB Power Grids on a global one, with a strong positive impact due to the local footprint), and Italy is presently one of the most important country in Europe for the Group.
Aligning business and social impact through innovation is the spirit of Hitachi’s global strategy. “To address social challenges, we shifted from product-centric to customer and solution-centric, and integrated internal capabilities with a co-creation approach with our customers,” Dellagiovanna continued. In this perspective, investing in R&D is not just growing the business but improving the quality of our lives: “We do that in every field we operate in. For example, with particle beam therapy system, the advanced radiotherapy system for cancer treatment, which is safer for healthy tissues than conventional radiotherapy. This was maybe the first time I really realized how much R&D can change our lives.”
For a global industrial group, the theme of D&I is crucial and is deeply interconnected with the idea of leadership. D&I is a crucial component of ESG - Environmental, Social, and Governance – Factors, which are the metrics investors are using to measure the sustainability and the ethical impact of an investment in a business. Therefore, companies are now requested to create not just economic, but also social and environmental value as part of their strategy. And this is what Hitachi is committed to do.” The best way to succeed in D&I is through an integrated ecosystem, starting from a committed leadership who is aware of the power of D&I in terms of innovation, business growth, finding new solutions and business models for society. We are considering tying executive compensation to D&I goals as we did with environmental goals,” the Chief D&I Officer underlined, showing we are not only dealing with abstract values. “We decided to invest in diversity across all dimensions, among them gender, nationality, emerging generations, sexual orientation … Our aim is to cover all diversities with no limits and to look through them with the lens of D&I to see how they can contribute. To us, diversity is diversity of thought.”
Speaking of innovative industrial policies, it is natural to bring up the theme of sustainability. Hitachi is a principal partner of Cop-26 and “we have a very clear plan for contributing to a net zero society. We are involving all our employees, not only by taking action in their daily lives, but also by making creative suggestions. Because small actions can make a big difference.”
How can future leaders leverage D&I in their careers? – was De Vries’ inevitable question in front of the MBA audience. “Be curious and open-minded. Overcome your biases. Live and work with diverse people, as you are doing here. Try and work outside your comfort zone as much as you can. Open your eyes and your ears as much as you can: the world around you can give you a lot, and you can give back. And figure out what kind of world you want to live in, in the future” – this was Dellagiovanna’s passionate answer. And she added: “We should never cancel diversity but always bridge it through communication, to avoid losing talent”.
“Diversity and inclusion should not only be about numbers and about checking boxes,” De Vries concluded. “It is about doing the hard work needed to create inclusive work and study environments in which everyone feels that they can be who they are, and that they are heard. This requires a cultural shift in the way we operate as organizations. It is about making diversity and inclusion part of our organizational DNA.”
SDA Bocconi School of Management