DEI work still in the early stages: new thesis on Kiilto’s social responsibility development

Noora Huovilainen’s recently finished thesis looks into the development of corporate social responsibility from the viewpoint of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In the work community, these include:

  • diversity
  • an equal and inclusive way of thinking, treating everyone as a unique individual with individual needs
  • employees’ feeling of being full members of their work community and being heard  
  • taking into account employees in a weaker position 
  • teamwork that transcends national and cultural boundaries 
  • good behaviour 

Kiilto, when commissioning the thesis, wanted to find out how they can promote the realisation of DEI themes in their own activities.

The thesis includes a theoretical overview of DEI themes, used as a basis by Huovilainen to carry out the theme interviews in the companies that were studied, which, in addition to Kiilto, were Kemira, Lassila & Tikanoja and Neste.  The theme interviews discussed corporate responsibility, the effect of leadership on corporate responsibility and DEI work, and measures taken by the companies to promote DEI work.

The thesis also discusses challenges to DEI work. DEI matters are often considered “soft” values and taken for granted in the work community, but actually they require a conscious effort to be realised. The thesis includes an examination of people’s own privileges and prejudices, and the fear of failure and finding yourself in an uncomfortable situation. This is why DEI work takes time and effort.

Status of social responsibility in Kiilto

Huovilainen found out what the current situation is at Kiilto in terms of responsibility and DEI work. According to the findings, Kiilto’s operations are already guided well by a responsible mindset, but the DEI work is still in its early stages. Kiilto should take DEI work into consideration more in its functions and to increase understanding and training on the subject extensively at various employee levels.

DEI themes are included in Kiilto’s well-being at work programme. A working group was set up at Kiilto in spring 2024 to develop DEI work, tasked still in 2024 to increase awareness of DEI matters within Kiilto, to support HR in taking DEI matters into account and to plan Kiilto’s DEI path forward, among others.

Using information from the thesis, DEI work can be promoted by, for example, including DEI themes into the Kiilto strategy, increasing understanding among management and staff about DEI matters, and by developing the work of HR to be more DEI-conscious. An employer taking DEI matters well into account can increase psychological safety; employee wellbeing, trust and innovation; and better understanding of customer needs.

Huovilainen’s thesis is available here in Finnish.