Food and consumer goods firms struggle to make progress on diversity

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Employers in the food and consumer goods industry have seen the Covid-19 crisis as a catalyst to take action to improve diversity and inclusion, a report has claimed, but many are struggling to make progress on ethnicity in particular.

According to a survey of 30 companies and interviews with senior HR leaders at major retailers, food service providers and manufacturers, only half have put a D&I strategy in place, although more than 80% are talking about the issue at senior level.

Forty-five per cent of firms were yet to take formal steps to address D&I. Only 40% had targets in place to measure their progress.

The results, published in a report released by the IGD, a research and training charity for firms in the food and consumer goods sector, also showed that improving inclusion of staff from ethnic minority groups was the most challenging area.

Half found making progress on ethnicity was their biggest issue, largely due to inaccurate data and the lack of relatable role models in the sector. Some 60% said a lack of diverse role models within their organisation was a significant challenge.

The IGD split the firms into three tiers depending on how far they had progressed on their D&I journeys. Thirty per cent were found to be “sprinting ahead” – these were firms that had prioritised D&I at the core of their business over the past three years; 25% were “up and running”, which included those that were starting to implement training programmes and provide opportunities for employees; and 45% were “on the starting blocks”, consisting of companies that had yet to formally devise a strategy.

Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD, said: “As the largest consumer-facing industry and largest private sector employer, the need for our industry to lead the inclusion and diversity agenda is significant.

“Despite what has been a very turbulent year, there is vast evidence to suggest that an inclusive and diverse organisation will help organisations prosper in the future. Our insight gained from our conversations with senior leaders reveal that many recognise that consumers, employees, investors and trading partners are increasingly expecting them to demonstrate strong I&D values and plans that align with this.

“I&D is a journey for the long term. To accelerate, we must embrace it in all levels of our organisations and tackle it in a multi-dimensional way.”

IGD has developed a developed a 10-step checklist of practical steps to help food and consumer goods firms become more inclusive:

  1. Define what I&D means for your organisation
  2. Identify your strengths and priorities for improvement
  3. Lead from the top
  4. Set targets and measure progress
  5. Foster an inclusive culture and mindset
  6. Educate and support your line managers
  7. Identify and prioritise interventions
  8. Share success stories
  9. Learn from others
  10. Keep I&D high on your organisation’s agenda.

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