Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: Creating competitive advantage with a welcoming culture
by Keith Hechtel, DBA, Curbell Plastics, Inc.
Article one in the DEI+B series by the IAPD Diversity Equity and Inclusion Task Force

he performance plastics industry serves multiple stakeholders including customers, suppliers, employees, owners, investors and the communities that we operate in. Benefiting these groups effectively is essential to ensure a sustainable future for IAPD member companies.

It is important to note that these stakeholders consist of considerably more diverse populations today when compared with the plastics industry in 1956 when Paul Davis founded our association. Recognizing this, IAPD’s DEI&B task force will be offering education and resources for our members, sharing best practices for creating cultures that make all people feel welcome in our industry. This article is intended to provide an overview of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and describe how these practices can benefit performance plastics organizations. This is the first in a series of articles, webinars and live events that IAPD will offer for performance plastics professionals who wish to engage with this important business and social issue.

people leaning over table having discussion

DEI+B in performance plastics

Diversity is the idea that all people are unique individuals and everyone is welcome to engage with our industry. Clearly, demographic variables such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age and family status have no bearing on a person’s ability to operate plastic extrusion equipment, work in finance, create polymer formulations or buy or sell performance plastics. Embracing diversity is particularly important in the current employment market, where plastics manufacturers and distributors are struggling to meet staffing requirements. Managers and human resource professionals can appreciate the benefits of embracing the widest possible pool of qualified candidates for open positions.

The words “equity” and “equality” are sometimes used interchangeably; however, they imply somewhat different meanings. Equality in a business setting means treating everyone exactly the same way. Equity captures the idea that some people may face barriers to full participation in the workplace. Leaders who are sensitive to this can play a key role promoting career success, removing barriers, and making sure that everyone has the resources that they need for a rich and rewarding career in plastics manufacturing and distribution. For example, professional networking is an important activity for career development. In the performance plastics industry, networking often happens during business dinners or sporting events. These may be problematic for women who are disproportionally responsible childcare and eldercare, and may not be able to easily attend networking events after work due to these obligations. Scheduling networking events such as business lunches or early afternoon group coffee chats would be an example of creating equity rather than relying on equality to promote workplace success for all employees.

Inclusion involves treating all people with dignity and respect, creating a business environment that welcomes a diverse population of employees, customers, suppliers and investors. Inclusion means that everyone can participate in our industry and that everyone is encouraged to share ideas and contribute.

Belonging is the intangible feeling that one is fully engaged with a performance plastics company as a valued employee, loyal customer, supplier partner or proud investor. Belonging happens when people feel safe and comfortable to bring their full and authentic selves to work.

The benefits of DEI+B

Evolving social and business norms have made adopting DEI&B practices essential for performance plastics organizations. The need to embrace DEI&B is similar to the adoption of other important plastics industry trends including environmental stewardship, quality management and worker safety, which have vastly improved the way that our industry operates in recent decades.

Customers, especially those with younger workers, seek to do business with companies that employ and welcome diverse populations. Some customers are now asking plastic suppliers to share their environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices along with their quality management systems and their cybersecurity capabilities when evaluating possible vendors.

group of workers posing for photo
Job candidates consider a company’s values, including their DEI&B practices, as they choose among possible employers. Attracting and retaining employees is perhaps the greatest challenge currently being faced by the performance plastics industry. Companies that recruit people from diverse populations benefit from having a broader pool of talent to fill open positions.

Having employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences allows plastics companies to benefit from having diverse perspectives on business issues. Diversity in an organization can result in richer brainstorming sessions and accelerate problem solving and innovation.

Investors evaluate diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging practices when choosing where to allocate capital. Performance plastics companies that operate in a way that welcomes a diverse population of employees and customers are more attractive to potential investors.

DEI&B represents an opportunity to enhance the culture of the performance plastics industry in a way that benefits IAPD member companies, while also fundamentally “doing the right thing,” making all people feel welcome to participate and thrive in our organizations.

This article has provided an overview of how IAPD member companies can benefit from diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging practices. Future articles, webinars and live events will address specific DEI&B topics including:

  • Methods for recruiting and retaining diverse talent
  • Building the professional networks of a diverse workforce
  • Creating a company culture that embraces diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging
  • Manager training for adoption of DEI+B practices
  • Internal and external messaging to promote DEI+B

Additionally, the DEI&B Task Force will be sharing a list of consultants and educational resources for IAPD member companies seeking additional information and guidance about this topic.

More details about DEI+B can be found at