Paralympics & retail

Channelling the Paralympic values to bring change within retail

Determination, equality, inspiration and courage. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a large retailer’s slogan. These are, in fact, the Paralympic values that shape the nature and spirit of the competition and the competitors.

And as the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games kicks off (4-13 March), there are some important lessons to be learned from its values and beliefs to help us all challenge our diversity and inclusion agendas.

The International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) own Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Policy says “Diversity is a reality. Inclusion is a choice.”

And while that choice is certainly a challenging one, it benefits everyone when we get it right.


Diversity and inclusion is a marathon

Equity within D&I can often feel impossible to achieve because of the many layers that sit under its umbrella and the individual people within them. It’s a marathon, rather than a sprint.

The Paralympic Games has championed this approach by investing time and resources to understand its participants and address the layers within D&I. Its complex classification categories help to level the playing field for its competitors but striving for equity remains a challenge, even for the Paralympics. Within those classifications are further requirements for minimum athlete numbers and representation across countries. These are harder targets to achieve.

This ‘umbrella effect’ is echoed in the recent Diversity and Inclusion in UK retail report from British Retail Consortium, The MBS Group and PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). It says that while “100% of D&I strategies look at gender, 90% look at race and ethnicity and 68% look at LGBTQ+. Only half look at disability, and less than a quarter cover social mobility (20%) or age (23%)”

Within retail, when we talk about D&I we need to consider our staff, our customers and our supply chain. A different approach is required for all of these layers that fall under our umbrella. Then we have our different touch points – online, social, in-store, phone, e-mail. And underneath that, we have even more layers from gender and race, to disability and age. 

We cannot build equitable D&I policies when we fail to look at the whole picture. Committing time and resources to truly understand the people who fall under your umbrella requires a slow and steady approach.


Implementation is the true winner

The IPC didn’t simply create its ability categories for athletes to compete and then sit back and do nothing. They had to implement their vision. And that means action. Enabling Paralympic athletes to use facilities, adapting their medal podiums and venues, ensuring that every detail within their vision is attended to.

In retail, attracting a more diverse customer base means that you need to take steps to make it happen. Accenture’s report How inclusion and diversity driver shoppers’ behavioursays that store environment is the number one driver of shoppers switching with 64% of people saying that they would switch from a retailer if they felt unwelcome or unfairly treated.

So with that in mind, what steps can you take to start addressing some of your barriers to inclusion? Self-checkouts have become commonplace in many stores across Europe but research shows that they are a barrier for elderly consumers.

Poland’s multimedia chain, Empik, has introduced Autism friendly hours in-store – with muted announcements and music to enable shoppers with Autism to enjoy the store environment. 

What are you doing in your supply chain to increase diversity and inclusion? And with your staff? It’s common to find that staff feel very differently about D&I than their managers – and this disconnect is often fuelled by a lack of implementation.

Accenture’s report reminds us that “Silence is not a strategy” but also how willing consumers are to value, and switch to, brands that prioritise D&I.

Implementation is the real gold medal winner here.


Courage is key

Back to the Paralympic values, and it’s clear that courage is essential if we’re to overcome our D&I barriers.

Over the last two years, retail has been challenged far more than ever before – but now is not the time to stop. Now is the time to embrace this discomfort and continue to strive for greater impact through our D&I policies.

Here are some great resources to help you bring a courageous approach to your D&I agenda in 2022.

The state of equity, diversity and inclusion in Europe

Best Inclusive Practices in Retail 2021

How to source diverse suppliers  

Diversity in the customer experience

Find out what we’re doing at Worldpack to address our own D&I agenda.


If you’re looking for a partner who values diversity and inclusion as much as you do then speak with one of our account managers today. You can email at or ring us on +31(0) 88 494 20 80.

Rudi Strauss
Account Manager

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