News & Analysis

NI unveils strategy to impact society and environment

3rd February 2021
Mick Elliott

NI is embarking on an ambitious 10-year strategy to advance diversity, equity and sustainability. Engineering Hope, NI’s 2030 Corporate Impact Strategy, outlines the company’s vision and aspirational goals for making a measurable, positive impact on society and the environment by 2030.

The long-term plan furthers NI’s promise to Engineer Ambitiously, connecting people, ideas and technology to take on the world’s greatest challenges.

“The world is facing pressing challenges, from climate change to inequality. Engineering will play a pivotal role in confronting these issues, which is why we must collectively lead the change we hope to see in society,” said NI President and CEO Eric Starkloff. “We are focusing our efforts in areas like sustainability, diversity and equity - areas in which we can drive important, meaningful impact at NI, in the engineering field and in society at large."

Over the next decade, NI is dedicated to creating impact in three areas by working toward a set of 15 goals and commitments, including two “moonshot” diversity goals.

"By 2030 50% of the global workforce will be women and our U.S. workforce will be 13% black and 18% Latinx.  And by 2030, 50% of our people managers globally will be women and 40% of our U.S. people managers will be people of colour,".says Tabitha Upshaw, Head of Corporate Impact at NI.

NI has worked on the process to achieve these goals for the past year.

“We started by looking at the data, understanding where we are, looking at cause and discovery to find if there is anything getting in our way of promoting women and people of colour” explains Upshaw.

NI has instigated year-long training courses covering unconscious bias and inclusivity, which says Upshaw, “is a key enabler of this strategy. We can juice the pipeline, we can recruit more women, we can look at our systems, but it’s so important people feel included, otherwise we will just have a leaky funnel.”

Leaders within NI will meet every month to discuss psychological safety and the issues around unconscious bias. “I’ve never seen anything like this in an y other company I have worked for,” adds Upshaw.

Supporting STEM education will be a crucial element in the NI strategy.

And as Shelly Gretlein, NI’s Vice President of Brand and Communications, Global Marketing notes, “All the elements of NI’s strategy are intertwined. So while we can have the diversity at the leadership level, we also have to go back to the pipeline. I can recall when I was at engineering school, there wasn’t a lot of people who looked like me. There were no role models.

S Tabitha and the team have done a wonderful job in saying OK here is what we can do today, and we need to look at that future pipeline so that we can be sure that students are interested in engineering and science.”

“They need to see role models like them around the world, because these things go hand in hand,” Gretlein continues. “You can do all the things you want to do to change bias, but if the talent isn’t coming through, we can’t move the needle, we can’t change the face of STEM.”

That is why NI will invest $3.4 million globally over the next four years in STEM education initiatives that serve under-represented or economically disadvantaged students.

Two grantees, Code2College and Project Lead The Way, will each receive $100,000 per year for the next four years to expand their hands-on learning programs.

These initiatives constitute “Changing the face of Engineering”, one of three pillars which make up NI’s Engineering Hope Strategy.

“Building a thriving and equitable society” is NI’s goal for 16% of its suppliers to be small or diverse businesses by 2030. This is part of NI’s commitment to increasing equity and well-being among its employees and in the communities where they live and work. The company will also work toward achieving pay equity, advancing comprehensive well-being programs and supporting economic opportunity initiatives through giving and volunteering.

The third pillar is “Engineering a healthy planet”. By 2030, NI’s goal is to achieve Zero Waste at NI-owned buildings and reduce waste at leased facilities worldwide. The company will also work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve resources and design all new buildings to LEED and WELL standards. NI will also pursue circular design improvements to its products and packaging and donate or discount NI products to organizations developing green technologies.

To further progress toward these goals, NI has issued a 2+1 Giving Pledge: By 2030, the company will increase giving from 1% to 2% of annual, pre-tax profits in the form of monetary and product donations. And NI employees will have the opportunity to spend 1% of their work hours volunteering in their communities.

“This strategy builds upon NI’s culture of caring and long legacy of corporate citizenship,” summarises Tabitha Upshaw. “At the same time, it goes beyond philanthropy to integrate corporate impact into most every aspect of our business, especially the way we empower our customers, educators and innovators to use NI products for good.”

The strategy is also designed to be iterative, and NI may scale its commitments and goals as its programs evolve and mature. NI will publish an annual corporate impact report that measures against its 2019 baseline data.

Tabitha Upshaw and Shelley Gretlein will expand on the Engineering Hope initiative in an Electronic Specifier podcast which will be available from Friday February 5.

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