InclusionScore CEO: Recent Events Highlight Need to Rein in Costly D&I Risk
At the end of June, James Felton Keith read the news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority rulings regarding affirmative action in higher education, and the application of free speech in anti-discrimination law.
At around the same time, the outgoing CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (Big I) was relieved of his duties early – a decision made following his April conference interview with FOX News host Jesse Watters, who made crude comments regarding the sexuality and intelligence of Vice President Kamala Harris right before the conference’s scheduled diversity luncheon Keith would attend.
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Keith, CEO of InclusionScore, told Insurance Journal the events only cemented his thoughts regarding what he calls “people management” in business.
“What institutions are next?” questioned Keith, an engineer and economist who was the first Black LGBTQ person to run for Congress in 2017. With the economy being driven by those demanding intentional inclusion in the workplace, he said – like women who may have been offended at the Big I conference, or the LGBTQ community and those of various racial and ethnic backgrounds affected by the Supreme Court rulings, “This is going to explode the litigation.”
InclusionScore is an underwriting tool for diversity and inclusion (D&I) risk, which ripples into employment practices liability, directors and officers, errors and omissions, professional liability, management liability, and even workers compensation. The company’s team wrote the international standard for D&I – ISO 30415 published in 2021.
“You used to ask 100 people for a definition of D&I and get 100 answers,” Keith said. “Now the answer is ISO 30415. There’s a very rigid answer.”
A solid answer was necessitated by a number of factors: the growing diversity of America’s workforce, a recent spike in grievances at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the hard fact that adopting D&I initiatives is costing companies money. Keith said about 90% of S&P 500 balance sheets are intangible assets.
“That’s finance talk for people,” he explained. “It’s not just the 500, but their top-tier partners too. So the biggest companies in this country all claim, whether they are public or private, that their number one asset is people. And right now, everyone is in their box, their cultural bucket, and they’re thinking about how they’ve been done wrong. This new hyper-identification of ourselves has created a situation where we’re at risk if we are not acknowledging folks and managing them, being good custodians of their unique abilities.”
“Insurers have to be engaged because they are going to pay the bills,” Keith continued. He added that large, multinational insurers use the ISO standard across all industries to evaluate an organization’s maturity at people management. “Firms that are not standardizing and professionalizing the intentionality of inclusion cost money,” he said.
With dozens of protected classes and others that claim retaliation or discrimination, the environment “quickly turns litigious,” Keith said. The outcomes can be very expensive, with multimillion-dollar awards. The average price tag for settling out of court is about $75,000. InclusionScore’s database puts court-awarded damages for employment-related lawsuits at about $217,000 per claim.
“We need to look at people management and establish some standardized reins on what is in and out of play,” he said. “We’re not mining for gold; we’re selling shovels specifically to create corporate change management – as loss prevention. Because the world can get pretty chaotic if we allow sociology and people with political opinions to argue about what should happen in businesses. Not just from a D&I standpoint, but also from a broader ESG standpoint.”
WRITTEN BY Chad Hemenway
Chad is National News Editor at Insurance Journal. He has been covering the insurance industry since 2007, reporting on trends and coverage in most lines of insurance as well as natural catastrophes, modeling, regulation, legislation, and litigation. Chad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org