Different and similar: The implementation of D&I across Europe

Does a coherent European approach to D&I exist and can it be successful in varying local contexts? Which are the regional factors to which D&I must be tailored in order to be successful? These were some of the high level questions that lead to an innovative European study, the results of which have just been published.

The dynamics of globalisation and the advancement of research have changed the D&I landscape over 20+ years. While experts will fully support the notion that the situation in each of the traditional themed D&I areas varies greatly across continents and countries, an increasing amount of concepts and tools claim to work equally well around the globe. This belief does not always acknowledge implicit assumptions embedded in some of these frameworks and some do not consider regional specifics either. “Europe has always been a special focus and passion for us”, the D&I Engineer, Michael Stuber, says pointing to the name of his company ‘European Diversity’; “We saw some coherence across the EU and EFTA as well as differences that needed to be explored”.

Hence, the aim of the research project Stuber suggested to the Cologne Business School (CBS) was to analyse, from a comparative perspective, country-specific traits in the D&I implementation by companies operating in the defined regional clusters. These studies focused on the question as to whether D&I practices varied across European regions while any European commonality would be an implicit result of the totality of the studies.

The European D&I Research Project

The new working paper presents the results of five studies dedicated to explore commonalities and differences of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) within and across Europe. Key analyses included

  • Content analysis techniques to operationalise information reported by major companies operating in the target country clusters
  • Local data analyses of public information regarding societal, legal and other context factors.

The comparison of both enabled the researcher to test their assumptions which were mostly based on neo-institutional theory. Key results included a number of influencing factors determining characteristics and commonalities within and across Europe.

Each of the five studies, that were conducted between autumn 2015 and spring 2016, is presented as a short research report that includes a general description of the relevance of the topic for the analysed economies, the specifics of the local institutional context, a brief outline of the method used as well as a presentation and discussion of results.

  • Cluster 1: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden
  • Cluster 2: France, Belgium and Luxembourg
  • Cluster 3: the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands
  • Cluster 4: Turkey and Greece
  • Cluster 5: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Some results and key learnings

As a series of previous pan-European D&I studies has already shown consistency for the region and over time (analysis of corporate annual reports 2008 – 2018), the new research focused on local influences in the regional clusters above. In order to investigate this and be comparable within certain limits, the studies focused on specific context factors of the implementation of Diversity & Inclusion, observed some cornerstones and used some common research tools including the European Commission’s Diversity Implementation Checklist. For almost all countries, the EU context provided a natural reference framework which appeared to have some implications on Corporate D&I programmes, specifically the choice of and focus on diversity dimensions. On the other side, specifics were found in each regional cluster:

  • For Scandinavia, Wilperath found a ‘Nordic model’ that explains some transnational commonalities with shared (e.g. welfare state) values. Differences could be explained, for example, by different migration dynamics.
  • Dükert showed a common anti-discriminatory understanding for France, Belgium and Luxembourg, while thematic focuses (e.g. on disability in France or on young people in Belgium and France) could be explained with data illustrating local specifics.
  • For Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdoms, Blauen identified personnel policy principles and training as transnational commonality. Specific equal pay initiatives in the Netherlands are explained by the pronounced pay gap there.
  • Saran found clear similarities between the diversity approaches of Turkish and Greek companies, e.g. with regard to a focus on equal opportunities or anti-discrimination, but also with regard to the lack of consideration of the LGBT dimension.
  • In her analysis of companies in the so-called Baltic States and Poland, Börsch showed similar approaches to gender and age, which were explained by comparable societal factors.

The results show which of the local context factors appear to have a direct influence on the implementation of Diversity & Inclusion. “It is interesting to note that the factors leading to different D&I approaches are highly particular to the respective local context”, Stuber comments. While gender, generations and geographic origin and mobility clearly varied across Europe, he says “The business benefits as well as barriers and biases relating to D&I have a strong European profile”. International companies should therefore establish a European element within their Global frameworks which should consolidate the large number of commonalities.


Related articles

http://en.diversitymine.eu/schwerpunkt-diversity-personal-quarterly/ including article about European D&I research

http://en.diversitymine.eu/european-blue-chip-firms-underreport-di/ EuroStoxx®50

http://en.diversitymine.eu/eurozone-blue-chips-increase-volume-of-di-communication-with-a-gender-focus/ EuroStoxx®50

http://en.diversitymine.eu/new-empirical-data-about-di-in-european-blue-chip-corporations/ Stoxx®50Europe

http://european-diversity.com/what-is-diversity/di-research/ about different forms of research



Diversity and inclusion in Europe: analysing local specifics and international influences


Edited by Anja Karlshaus, Irene López, Ingvill C. Mochmann, Ihar Sahakiants and Michael Stuber


The project was carried out as a partnership of the Cologne Business School (CBS) and European Diversity Research & Consulting