“If you plan to become a large diverse and inclusive company, start building the foundations for that while you’re still a small company.”
Making inclusivity a standard business practice
Origin Materials has been on a mission to change the world since its founding in 2008. That mission involves not only reducing the world’s dependence on petroleum-based plastics, but also upholding environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles — including those related to inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA).
Q: Why is it important to Origin Materials to focus on IDEA?
DR. ALEX WARD, PRESIDENT, ORIGIN MATERIALS CANADA RESEARCH: Our co-founders have always been very forward-looking, including in matters related to people, so IDEA has been a part of the company for years. But even more than that, we recognize that IDEA practices are not just the moral thing to do. It’s also the competitive thing to do and helps set the company up for long-term success.
Q: Who’s responsible for incorporating IDEA into the company’s operations?
AW: It’s driven from all angles. We have buy-in from the top down, with a Board of Directors that reflects our commitment to IDEA. Its members have a wide range of backgrounds, and many have experience on diversity, equity and inclusion committees at large, multinational companies. We also have leadership on this from the bottom up, thanks to an IDEA committee with diverse representation from all parts of the company.
Q: What are some of the keys to long-term IDEA success?
AW: Don’t wait. If you plan to become a large diverse and inclusive company, start building the foundations for that while you’re still a small company. Making it an inherent part of your company identity from day one will attract talent that aligns with your values. But IDEA initiatives need to be implemented in a stepwise progression: you can’t do it all at once, so focus on doing what’s right for your company where your company is at now. For example, if you plan to do a lot of hiring, develop IDEA-based hiring guidelines.
Q: How can a small company with limited resources prioritize IDEA?
AW: Remember that not all actions have to be big or resource-intensive. Something as simple as including pronouns in email signatures and Zoom profiles sends an inclusive message that others can do so too, and they’ll be respected. It can make a big difference in making people feel welcome and comfortable being their authentic selves.
Q: What’s your top piece of advice for companies looking to apply IDEA principles?
AW: Stop thinking about IDEA as a separate part of the business. It’s all related — and IDEA practices shouldn’t be novel activities companies do to stand out. Make them part of your default business practices, no different than finance, HR or any other department required to successfully run a business.
Location: Sacramento, California (with a facility in Sarnia, ON)
Employees: Approx. 80
Origin Materials manufactures carbon-negative bio-plastics and other materials with the goal of supporting and accelerating the transition toward more sustainable materials.