Accelerating DEI beyond borders for Solvay Citizen Day
Since 2019, Solvay, partner of +15 years, has been organizing Citizen Day. The global event aims to engage employees in actions with local communities and reconnect with the Group’s purpose: to bond people, ideas, and elements to reinvent progress, and to foster positive change in the world through science.
In 2022, the Group chose ‘Dignity, Equity and Inclusion’ (DEI) as the topic of that year’s Citizen Day. Solvay called on its year-long partnership with Mach Media to organize the event, from A to Z.
With DEI being a top priority for Solvay – it’s part of the Group’s business strategy – it was important that not only as many employees as possible participated but that as many Solvay citizens and communities benefited from the week-long event.
This meant hitting the following objectives:
- Create buy-in among +20,000 employees across +100 sites.
- Coordinate relevant activities on both local and global levels to foster a sense of connection and belonging among employees.
- Turn employee participation into measurable impact for the communities Solvay serves.
UNITING UNDER A SHARED THEME
We knew the first, and perhaps most important, step was proposing a strong theme that everyone could relate to. That’s why we chose ‘ubuntu’, an African philosophy which translates to ‘I am because we are’.
Ubuntu says that our humanity, dignity, and sense of self are shaped by our relationship with others. In other words, our common bond is more important than any differences among us. This is reflected in the purpose of Citizen Day: when joining forces, even the smallest actions can create impact.
Once the theme was unanimously approved, it was important to keep the momentum going. We created a variety of deliverables that aimed to educate and get employees ‘warmed up’ for Citizen Day. Some of those deliverables included:
- An inspiring teaser video announcing Citizen Day.
- A video message from the Chief DEI Officer elaborating on the importance of Citizen Day.
- Posters and infographics with strong DEI statements, questions, and statistics.
- A ‘DEI Awareness Quiz’, addressing common DEI misconceptions.
- A messaging strategy and framework for team leaders to encourage employee participation.
- An ‘All You Need to Know about DEI’ toolkit, filled with DEI facts and figures.
- Striking t-shirt designs – because no Citizen Day is complete without a team uniform!
ACTIVITIES THAT CREATE IMPACT
Then came the most challenging aspect of Citizen Day: putting together a toolkit of diverse activities that speak to the thousands of employees at Solvay.
For the activities, we wanted to create opportunities for employees to connect, share experiences, have honest conversations, and learn from each other. We also opted for a hybrid approach, allowing employees to meet in-person locally but also connect online globally. That’s why we organized activities on four different levels:
On a global level, we saw Solvay employees from across the world connect to hear CEO Ilham Kadri host a talk show with world-class Paralympians, among many other activities.
At many sites, employees participated in diversity walks, community work, focus groups on inclusive workplaces, and potluck lunches.
Teams strengthened their team spirit by getting to know each other on a whole new level through respectful group discussions, activities that challenge stereotypes and celebrate differences, and by signing a collective team inclusion pledge.
And many employees eagerly signed up for virtual coffee connects with colleagues in different corners of the world and started many movie and book clubs.
TURN IMPACT INTO TANGIBLE RESULTS
To ensure that the impact of the activities extended beyond Solvay employees to local communities, we made the decision to translate employee participation into meaningful financial support for local DEI-focused organizations and charities.
For every activity they participated in, employees earned points, which Solvay then matched with actual money. To keep track of all points amassed, each event received its own unique QR code. Employees could scan this code on their mobile devices, leading them to a dedicated landing page where they could register all necessary details.
To say Citizen Day 2022 was a success is an understatement:
- 105 sites participated
- 9,000 employees participated in activities
- A whopping €50,000 was raised for local DEI-related charities and organizations