Dignity. The Missing Aspect of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

When our standards team was reworking the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management, we started writing an element for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  We felt strongly that the impact element we used in version 2, diversity and equal opportunity, should be separated, given their own focus, and expanded on.  Since DEI has is an important focus (and also the target of unwarranted scrutiny), we wanted to frame policies, procedures, and practices that would support it from a project management context.

Our VP and Director for Latin America, Monica Gonzalez, made a keen observation.  She said, “We should put dignity as the first identifier.”  I’ll be honest; it made me think.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to creating a fair and just society where everyone is valued and respected. However, without dignity, this work can be lacking.

Dignity refers to recognizing and honoring every individual’s inherent worth and value, regardless of their background or characteristics.

Monica was right! We risk tokenizing or marginalizing individuals and groups when we promote diversity, equity, and inclusion without dignity. It is only when we fully embrace the concept of dignity that we can create a culture that is truly inclusive and equitable. By centering dignity in our efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion, we ensure that every individual is treated with respect and compassion and that our communities thrive.

In our new standard, we established that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DDEI) is a set of values, principles, and practices that create an environment where everyone involved in the project feels respected, safe, and valued. It also allows everyone to participate in relevant decision-making processes without facing discrimination or unfair treatment.

In the Element for DDEI we outline the following practices.

The project team should:

  • Explicitly incorporate DDEI principles in project goals, objectives, and metrics.
  • Encourage project workers to express their concerns about decisions which affect them and make it safe for them to do so.
  • Invest in project team development initiatives focused on DDEI topics such as implicit bias, cultural competence, unconscious language use, and microaggressions.
  • Provide mentorship opportunities, leadership roles, and competitive compensation packages regardless of gender, race, age, or other characteristics.
  • Develop an equitable workplace environment by implementing anti-discrimination policies and equal opportunity programs.

As a result, support for dignity, diversity, equity, and inclusion helps to achieve the following sustainable project outcomes:

  • Increased productivity by cultivating an environment of collaboration and trust.
  • Enhanced decision-making capabilities by embracing different perspectives.
  • Improved employee engagement and morale through feeling valued.
  • More effective recruitment strategies that attract top talent from diverse backgrounds.
  • Higher customer satisfaction rates due to a heightened sense of connection and loyalty.
  • Improved public image leading to increased brand recognition and market share.

Adopting these practices also directly map to three SDG targets and measures.

Supports SDG 8, Target 8. “Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment”

Supports SDG 10, Target 2 “Empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status”

Supports SDG 10, Target 4 “Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality”

Here are some examples of Businesses and platforms that have made dignity part of their core business practice.


Microsoft is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that values and respects all individuals. They have a number of policies and programs in place to promote dignity, including training on unconscious bias, flexible work arrangements, and employee resource groups for underrepresented communities.


Airbnb has a strong commitment to promoting belonging and inclusion for all its employees and hosts. They have implemented a number of policies to support this, including unconscious bias training, diversity recruiting initiatives, and an inclusive product design strategy.


Salesforce is known for its commitment to equality and social justice, and their policies and programs reflect this. They have a number of initiatives in place to promote dignity, including a comprehensive diversity and inclusion program, fair pay practices, and employee resource groups for marginalized communities.


LinkedIn is committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected. They have a number of policies and programs in place to promote dignity, including an inclusive recruitment process, continuous learning and development opportunities, and employee resource groups for underrepresented communities.

What happens when we ignore dignity?

When dignity is absent from business practice, it can result in negative consequences such as employees feeling undervalued and overlooked, leading to demotivation and decreased productivity.

Discrimination and bias can go unchecked, creating toxic work environments that hinder collaboration and innovation. Marginalized individuals and groups may face exclusion or tokenization, which can lead to missed opportunities for growth and progress.

Ultimately, the lack of dignity in business practices can harm individuals and organizations, preventing them from reaching their full potential and making meaningful contributions to a more equitable and sustainable world. However, by prioritizing dignity as a central component of our efforts towards diversity, equity, and inclusion, we can ensure that every individual is respected and valued, leading to successful and thriving projects.

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Dr. Joel Carboni

Dr. Joel Carboni is a highly respected expert in sustainable project management. He is a graduate of Ball State University and holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Environment. He has over 25 years of experience in project management, including government, finance, consulting, manufacturing, and education. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and events related to project management and sustainability and has worked in more than 50 countries. In addition to serving as President Emeritus of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) in the United States and being a member of the Global advisory board, Dr. Carboni is also the founder of GPM (Green Project Management) and a visiting professor at Skema Business School. He is also the GPM representative to the United Nations Global Compact, where he was a founding signatory of the Business for Peace Initiative and the Anti-Corruption call to action and a contributor to the development of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). Dr. Carboni is the creator of the PRiSM™ project delivery methodology and the P5 Standard for Sustainability in Project Management and has written training programs on Green and Sustainable Project Management that are offered in more than 145 countries through professional training providers, business associations, and universities. He is the lead author of the book "Sustainable Project Management."

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