KPMG (No. 6 on the Fair360 2023 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) is making significant strides in its commitment to workplace fairness and environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives through its recently unveiled 2023 U.S. Impact Plan.
The report outlines four pillars: People, Planet, Prosperity and Principles of Governance. These pillars form the basis of the firm’s approach to driving positive change.
In a recent Q&A session with Elena Richards, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at KPMG U.S., key insights were shared regarding the importance of each pillar in advancing the company’s DEI and ESG goals, highlighting the company’s dedication to its employees, integrity and community impact.
Fair360: KPMG’s 2023 U.S. Impact Plan looks at four pillars: People, Planet, Prosperity and Principles of Governance. Can you talk a bit about each of the four pillars and the significance of each to the company’s overall goals?
Elena Richards: “Our people are at the heart of everything we do at KPMG. They are the force behind the work we do for our clients. We have been focused on enhancing support for our people’s physical, mental and financial well-being, recognizing the challenges that the last few years have presented and the diversity of experiences people have in their work and home lives. We continue to remain focused on three key moments that matter in the career lifecycle: Getting Here, Succeeding Here and Leading Here. The five strategic priorities where we remain focused are talent acquisition, onboarding and integration; engaging everyone at all levels and across all functions of our firm; consistency of experience; our leadership pipeline; and transparency and accountability.
“The people pillar is the one I am most engaged with given my role at the firm, but it intersects with the other three pillars. From investments in ESG training and technological innovation to ensuring the work we do benefits the communities in which we live and work, we recognize we can only make progress towards our goals by mobilizing and making targeted investments in these key areas.”
Fair360: The report talks about “Putting our people first.” Can you discuss this section and why highlighting it is necessary for the 2023 Impact Plan?
ER: “Our people are our greatest assets, and we are keenly focused on creating equitable pathways for them to build long-term, rewarding careers. Furthermore, we know that when we come forward with diverse perspectives, we’re better able to solve our clients’ toughest problems, and that’s the core of the work we do at KPMG. So it makes good business sense to put our people first—creating an exceptional experience through a commitment to a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment, supportive well-being initiatives and robust learning and development opportunities. As a firm, we grow best when our people are growing too.”
Fair360: KPMG introduced its Accelerate 2025 strategy in 2020, discussed in the Impact Plan. Can you talk about what this strategy is, what it means to the company and where you are in terms of progress?
ER: “As a values-driven organization, KPMG has a long-standing commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion both within our firm and the broader marketplace. This continues to be a strategic priority. Our best practices align with the goals of our Accelerate 2025 initiative—a 5-year strategy that we launched to ensure that more individuals from underrepresented groups choose KPMG as their employer of choice, build careers at KPMG, and advance to leadership positions within our firm and within the profession. Accelerate 2025 creates layers of accountability, transparency, and aspirational goal-setting.
“When we set forth on our Accelerate 2025 initiative, we knew our goals were ambitious, and we did this on purpose. We are proud of the progress we have made in growing the diversity of our leadership and expanding the pipeline of diverse talent at all levels, but Accelerate 2025 is not so much a cutoff as it is a bold goal that assists in creating momentum. We view 2025 as a key milestone, not the finish line on this journey. Beyond 2025, our efforts will continue as we remain committed to the broad, long-term work of making KPMG and our communities better.”
Fair360: In the report, KPMG explains that integrity across the business is at the core of everything you do. What does integrity mean to you and how does it show up across the company?
ER: “Integrity means leading with transparency and accountability. It is about open lines of communication and ensuring a set of principles are in place throughout any decision-making process or program. At KPMG, we lead with integrity in how we serve our clients. In my role, my biggest stakeholder is our employees.
“One example that stands out to me is our continuous listening approach. We use frequent surveys and other listening channels, such as our Business Resource Groups and coffee chats with leaders around the firm, to better and more frequently understand people’s opinions, the challenges they’re facing, the support they need, and overall employee sentiment and engagement. And we use that data to drive more effective decisions and actions to enhance the people experience.”
Fair360: Community impact is another layer of the U.S. Impact Plan. How is KPMG helping out the communities it is in and what investments are you making?
ER: “I want to share a bit of a more personal story here. As a student, I used to run at the Armory’s track and field center, and The Armory Foundation has remained close to my heart ever since, recently coming full circle in my KPMG experience.
“In August of 2022, KPMG celebrated its 125th Anniversary, and I spent the day at the NYC Armory Track with our Chair and CEO, Paul Knopp, and a group of volunteers, sharing our favorite books with children and speaking with high school students about college prep and career opportunities. I got to lead middle school students through reciting and signing a pledge to “stay on track” for college.
“I went back to the NYC Armory track in January of this year, where we sponsored a track-and-field meet for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Our goal was to promote diversity within the accounting pipeline, as well as share employment, internship and scholarship opportunities with HBCU students. The day was a huge success and I felt so proud of the impact that our firm is making both close to home and beyond.”