4SD Foundation acts on the principle that the journey towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals must be followed in a way that empowers and includes diverse groups of people, enabling all to be part of designing, developing and delivering sustainable solutions in a complex, fast-changing world.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda provide an important compass for much of our work at 4SD Foundation. The SDGs give special attention to the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized, including women and girls, children, youth, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, older persons, indigenous peoples, refugees, internally displaced people, migrants, minorities, stateless people and all people facing discrimination. The corresponding critical pledge to “leave no one behind” provides a strong foundation by which 4SD aligns the theory and practice of equity, diversity and inclusion.

We recognise that discrimination, marginalization, exclusion and other human rights abuses deepen divisions in our, and therefore, achieving the SDGs by addressing the root causes of exclusion and poverty, guaranteeing food and nutrition security, ensuring access to quality and equitable education and lifelong learning, universal health coverage, as well as fighting climate change by protecting the environment – paves the way towards equality for all.

Furthermore, we act on the principle that the journey towards achieving the SDGs must be followed in a way that empowers and includes diverse groups of people, enabling all to be part of designing, developing and delivering sustainable solutions in a complex, fast-changing world.


Equality and non-discrimination are fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter, adopted by world leaders in 1945, and the international human rights legal framework contains international instruments to combat specific forms of discrimination, including discrimination against indigenous peoples, migrants, minorities, people with disabilities, discrimination against women, racial and religious discrimination, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Whilst we are not a United Nations entity or institution, we are proud to align behind these principles and frameworks which represent a wealth of knowledge and consensus across member states spanning decades of consensus building for human, economic and social development.

Our Guiding Principles

4SD’s moral and ethical compass is encapsulated in the 4SD guiding principles, notably on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), our principles state that:

  • We work with all actors, at all levels (local, national, regional, global), in all geographies. We believe all actors have an essential role in attaining better futures. We seek to be inclusive, proactive and constructive. We help actors as they work to optimize their societal impact and environmental integrity”.
  • We take a people-centered approach. We focus on people’s interests and needs. We aim to help people find their own power. We tailor our approach to specific contexts. We are committed to no-one being left behind. We pay attention to those who feel vulnerable.”

Investing in equity, diversity and inclusion

We consider costs related to EDI as investments. With living systems leadership as an integral concept at 4SD, constantly protecting spaces for diverse ideas and perspectives is critical to ensure ways of thinking and acting are continuously adapting. This is essential for the emergence of systems change and can be understood further in the 4SD think-piece “Encouraging Systems Change”.

We recognise how important EDI investments can be when working with partners in the typical systems structures of ownership. EDI is critical when seeking to influence how processes are designed to prevent and avoid perpetuating power imbalances. Ensuring spaces for multistakeholder engagement that are fair and meaningful means creating processes with space for grass roots perspectives and civil society organisations alongside policy makers and development institutions.

Practicing Inclusivity at 4SD

We have 5 areas of commitment where inclusivity can be practiced in order to ensure the value of diversity is constantly valued in the pursuit of equality. Our 5 areas of commitment span:

  1. Who we are: We commit to being an inclusive team which includes how and who we hire, the culture we nurture amongst colleagues and the processes we put in place to make an inclusive team a reality.
  2. Who we work with: We commit to working with clients, partners and service providers that share our value for diversity and who also strive for equity.
  3. What we do: We commit to choosing work that addresses complex topics, that require diverse thought and experience and that continue to challenge and grow the 4SD living systems leadership approach to sustainable development.
  4. How we work: We commit to creating spaces for diverse and inclusive dialogue and we commit to undertaking due diligence at every opportunity to ensure that the circles of inclusivity continue to widen.
  5. How we share our work: We commit to maximising the accessibility of our work, including making our work available as a public good when appropriate, ensuring translation when possible and shared via different channels to reach varied audiences.

We acknowledge that our inclusivity commitments are not intended to interfere with freedom of artistic or intellectual expression.

How we continue to improve on EDI

It is critical for us at 4SD to treat people fairly without bias and to promote dignity and inclusion with a culturally sensitive approach. By actively putting our commitments into practice and investing time in regular reflection and improvement, we strive to be one of the most inclusive places to work and one of the most inclusive organisations to work with.

We remain open to learn from good practices and approaches of others and invite comments on what we have shared here and from our interactions with partners, supporters and anyone across our network.

Continuous dialogue about what is acceptable and unacceptable is especially important for us as we continue to evolve as an organisation that works with a range of countries, cultures, communities, and across many complex topics. 

What we mean

Striving for Equity

Achieving equity is needed because not everyone is at the same level due to race, gender, income, sexuality or other factors. We recognise that people may need to be treated differently to ensure equitable access, equitable chances, an equitable voice, and equitable opportunities to explore, evolve and engage.

Valuing Diversity

We value diversity of thought and experience from different people spanning gender, age, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion and belief, education, health status, economic status, personality, political opinion and communication styles.

Practicing Inclusivity

We have 5 areas of commitment where inclusivity is practiced in order to ensure the value of diversity is constantly valued in the pursuit of equality.