Diversity as a strength for the renewable energy sector

The renewable energy sector has experienced rapid growth in recent decades due to the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and, of course, to address climate change. We understand the importance of this work, which is why today we stop to think about the people who make it possible at Atlas Renewable Energy.

Marcela Pizzi, head of People & Communications, is perhaps the person at Atlas who dedicates the most time to thinking about the well-being not only of the company’s employees and partners but also of the communities where there are cultural elements that challenge diversity and inclusion. These days, the whole world celebrates LGBTQIA+ pride, which is why we will reflect not only on the needs of that community, but in general on diversity and its many possibilities. 

Q. The first thing that strikes me is that when I ask about your position, they tell me that it is not called “human resources”, but that you are in charge of People & Communications. What is your job? 

A. It is exactly what you mentioned. My role in a traditional company would be as a human resources director, but people are people and not resources. So, that is why we have decided to change the focus, to change the name of the role because that also speaks volumes about the intention behind it and the initiatives that we promote in our area to encourage a people-centered culture.

Q. How does diversity drive the renewable energy sector? 

A. Diversity can drive the industry in so many ways. I believe that it is by thinking of it as a differentiating factor that we can really ensure that it is an innovative, fair, and sustainable sector in the long term. Diversity encompasses many aspects, if we think, for example, of geographical and cultural diversity. The sector can help meet the needs of certain regions and different communities.

If we think about diversity from the point of view of ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, renewable energy can ensure that the industry represents those diverse perspectives, focusing on solutions that can be more equitable and inclusive. But if we take it to the specific level of each person, considering the skills and knowledge that each one contributes to the development of their work on a day-to-day basis, it’s a win-win situation. 

Q. This was an industry largely led by men, and that sometimes leads to unconscious biases. For those who may not know, unconscious bias is when you inadvertently judge someone simply based on a factor such as their gender, sexual orientation, skin color, or even a disability. How do you at Atlas avoid these unconscious biases? 

A. It is a complex question that I am going to try to answer as broadly as possible. Nobody wants to be consciously discriminatory. No one consciously wants to apply those judgments, but they are how human beings have learned to respond to our environment. They are the shortcuts that the brain has that allow us to survive and make decisions quickly.

The first thing we did was recognize that this is part of our existence as humans. Then we started working very directly on how we were going to address this issue of unconscious biases. Obviously, we needed to change the conscious standpoint. But beyond pretending that we were going to change that with training, the goal was to make it conscious and permanent.

We changed our recruitment policy by establishing a blind resume where every time we received the resume of a person applying for one of our positions, we cleaned it of any item that could give clues to their appearance, gender, age, or other unrelated characteristics not relevant to the position. 

It is a challenge in many countries. We operate in countries like Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, the United States, and Spain. In most Spanish-speaking countries, even in Portuguese-speaking countries, you have masculine and feminine articles incorporated into resumes. And some countries are more advanced in terms of avoiding discrimination, such as Chile, where by law you must not include your photo, your address, or any personal information that in any way contaminates the decision when applying for a job. 

Q. How does the industry promote diversity?

A. That’s the role and the function that we have in this case, to support the growth of the industry from that perspective. The value of that diversity and of the differences of opinions generates sensitivity and knowledge of the markets in which you operate and of the industry, in general, and of the needs that are generated at the country level, at the community level, and at the level of people and this allows you to establish yourself as a company.

It also generates more innovative companies that focus, as we do, on people developing their potential within the corporation so that they can contribute with their work to the sustainable growth, in this case, of our renewable energy industry.

Q. We started this conversation by mentioning the month of gay pride or “pride”. How do you celebrate it at Atlas? 

A. Our perspective and way of recognizing diversity has been more through educating, training, discussing it, and talking about it. What are the correct terminologies? Also, asking the same people: What are the pronouns they identify with? What issues are important to them? 

Not all topics are necessarily issues that you have to bring to work. But there are tangential issues, such as when you talk about people of such and such gender, and if there is no understanding, it can affect labor management. In the countries where we operate, not all laws are advanced to the point of recognizing that the person is entitled to use the name that person wants. There are many countries where they are required to use the biological name. 

Since all these issues impact the workplace, then our contribution has been from the understanding of how we can include the entire community. In a work environment where they can continue to develop as people regardless of their sexual orientation and where their sexual preference is not necessarily relevant, it is part of the wealth they have as human beings.

Q. Why is it so important for Atlas to lead this conversation on diversity in the energy industry?

A. Leading the conversation is obviously valuable for so many reasons. I think it is an issue that goes beyond how beneficial it can be for us as Atlas, but rather, that it is part of the responsibility that each one has as a person. 

We grow to the extent that each one of us contributes to the industry from our own experience and also from the mistakes we make. We have gone on a path of evolution. At the beginning we celebrated, and now we commemorate certain dates, instead of celebrating. Because Women’s Day, for example, is not a date to celebrate, it is a day to commemorate, so we have started from education, from teaching, language. 

Q. You have many challenges ahead of you. One of them, and again talking about diversity, is that you operate in many countries. You have to deal with communities that have well-established cultures, where they are not always inclusive or diverse. How do you handle that?

A. We have been making progress in trying to generate an amplifying effect with respect to all our work. In diversity starting at home. As we always say, many of the initiatives that we have generated internally have been designed to recognize the diversities that we already have within the company. The first thing then is to recognize that we are also an internal community of very diverse people, and it is challenging because each person brings their wealth and their own diversity. At the same time, we also come from different countries and diverse cultures. 

So, that invites us to generate a shared vision. We established certain policies and guidelines that have allowed us to cement that feeling that we are “One Atlas” as we want to call ourselves, even though we are from different cultures. It is not that we want to homogenize everyone, it is the other way around: we want to recognize all the positive actions or the different characteristics that make us up.

This has given rise to the amplification of the message in the development of our projects in our communities. And this is how the program “We are all part of the same energy” was born. It was born somewhat inspired by this vision that we have internally regarding the gender guide, where at the beginning our theme of diversity was to advance with gender equality and that we later enhanced with many other conversations about other types of diversity. 

In the locations where we build our projects, there is no parity in terms of labor. We decided to create a project that not only generates more employment, but also favors the economic development of the communities in which we operate and supports the concept of equity in the construction of our projects. Today we have more than 900 women trained to work in the construction of our projects in countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Chile. 

Q. Is there any other program that you want to tell us about that promotes diversity and inclusion at Atlas? 

A. We have been advancing on a path of evolution and of learning as a company, without necessarily owning the truth, but rather being very sincere and humble. The language issue was one of the challenges because we have operations mainly in countries where the languages are spoken, either Portuguese or Spanish, the issue of pronouns is critical, or it gives you clues as to who you are talking to. We try to use the most neutral communication possible, talking about people, not necessarily talking about men or women. We think of the person who is applying for the position rather than the applicant or the candidate that we normally tend to generalize. 

And that’s just with pronouns, we also made a conscious decision that all communication should come in at least three languages, which are the three languages that we mainly speak: Spanish, Portuguese, and English. If you really want people to feel included in the company, language is the first door to that. 

It is the same as when one is invited to a party. Diversity is getting invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance at the party. That is true inclusion. So, it is not enough just to work as I told you against these entry policies, but what happens once the people are inside? How do you continue to take advantage of this wealth of diversity within the company effectively? We train conversation and discussion groups regarding different topics, and we bring talking points to the table. 

As for women, as a company, we have decided to implement a women’s leadership development program where there is a discussion about all the challenges that women mainly have in the world of work. We talked in that course about glass ceilings, impostor syndrome, the roles imposed by society, and so on. So, I’ll tell you that little example because that is one of the initiatives we do to keep this door open. And it’s not just opening the door, but keeping the door open in the sense that we have to continue promoting and working on professional development, not only for women but for the different diverse groups that we have in the company.

Q. One last question, how does diversity, which is the main topic today, but in general, the values that Atlas promotes, benefit the business?

A. First, I believe that diversity and inclusion can lead to an increase in innovation, since most people bring creative thinking and different ways of solving problems. They also lead to the creation of new products that bring about a fertile space to have different conversations.

These values boost business and help to think about things on a different scale. They also make us an attractive company for people to come and work with us, for what we offer and for the values in which we believe.

In partnership with Castleberry Media, we are committed to taking care of our planet, therefore, this content is responsible with the environment.