Calls for diversity and inclusion are everywhere. From the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements, to the rapid change of working from home; something that had disability campaigners pointing out that the issue has needed reform for years, but was never a priority until it affected the able-bodied workforce.
There is a general consensus among a growing body of voices on the subject that action, not words, is required to make definitive and meaningful change to diversity and inclusion agendas.
But what does that look like in real-life within retail? How do we, as retailers, make significant changes to both our inward diversity and inclusion agendas and our outward, customer-facing ones? The challenges are both wide-ranging and complex. And active change requires investment; financial, emotional and practical to make the changes needed to ensure everyone feels valued and seen.
Take time to listen
Our own Diversity and Inclusion Report highlighted many of the issues we face internally. “We surveyed all of our employees to gather their perspectives on diversity and wellbeing,” says Alice van der Westen, Manager Brand & Education at Bunzl, Worldpack’s parent company. “While the results were overall really positive, with people saying they felt comfortable and able to be themselves, we still find it a real challenge to get people to engage with learning more about diversity and inclusion and address their own, hidden, biases.”
A key part of changing approaches to diversity and inclusion is listening and engaging. Inviting everyone (staff, employees and customers) to become a part of your diversity and inclusion agenda is key to being able to bring change to the table. As Alice points out, while people may be reluctant to engage at first it is an important step to take to make the subject easier to talk about.
“At Bunzl, and all of our subsidiary companies, we want to pay attention to the issues and make it a daily subject of interest so that eventually we don’t have to talk about it at all.”
For many of us, it can be easier to focus on diversity – it’s much more easily measured and provides snapshot data that can help us to reach our defined diversity goals. But inclusion is where the hard part is, and that is when listening becomes essential.
“Inclusion is a matter of how people experience the workplace. Companies measure inclusion through both employees’ perceptions of the organization and their personal experiences at work.” The diversity imperative in retail, McKinsey & Company.
And this doesn’t just apply to staff, how do you measure whether your customers feel safe in changing spaces in your stores? How do you know if your customer-facing staff are making all genders, races or abilities feel comfortable? Even in an online capacity, there are changes you can make to ensure that people with dyslexia, colour blindness and visual impairments can use your site.
Jos Bergen, Managing Director at Worldpack, adds: “Worldpack is part of Bunzl and it’s a team effort. What Bunzl stands for, we all stand for. That is why all Bunzl colleagues worldwide have the same vision on diversity, inclusion and retail. Listening to a diverse range of voices may seem daunting but, here at Worldpack, it’s crucial to helping create a truly inclusive retail experience where everyone feels welcome. As well as pushing for diversity and inclusion on a strategic corporate level within Worldpack, we have created a task force that meets regularly – to ensure it’s not just strategy.”
Embrace bold changes
Suki Sandhu, founder and chief executive of Audeliss Executive Search and INvolve, says; “Even though leadership plays a key role and change should be driven from the top down, promoting diversity in the workplace ultimately must be everyone’s responsibility. This means it must be embedded into all areas of the company and be a consideration within all processes and policies – including recruitment, training, HR policies, office layout, social events, and internal communications, to name just a few.”
Making wholescale change, especially for large, global retailers, requires commitment, good quality research and dedication. Conducting your own research may be beyond what you can achieve right now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make bold changes.
Organisations like LEAD Network and Diversity in Retail are helping to support retailers with some of these challenges by publishing research and hosting events that provide a solid evidence-base for making change. And while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to diversity and inclusion, there is plenty to learn from other retailers and organisations and the approaches they are taking.
In May 2021, the UK-based supermarket chain Sainsburys joined the Black British Network to become part of the conversation around black representation and to shape positive change. One of its key commitments is to ensure that all of its head office roles are advertised externally, giving black talent an equal opportunity.
For any retailer who recognises there is a lack of representation internally, then there are likely to be barriers such as these that are preventing people from diverse backgrounds from applying for roles.
“It is absolutely true of Bunzl,” agrees Alice. “We don’t receive a large number of international applications or from people of diverse backgrounds. So we need to learn how to access that diversity.”
Talks from visiting academics, diversity and inclusion training and Diversity and Inclusion Boards at every subsidiary level within Bunzl are just some of the ways we are beginning our journey to help make our work and retail spaces fairer and more inclusive.
“It is important for me to make life and the world better,” emphasises Alice. And it’s these concerted efforts that we all need to continue to make a difference to everyone.
To find out more about Worldpack’s Diversity and Inclusion Report or to get some advice on how to ensure your retail space is inclusive, call your account manager, or email firstname.lastname@example.org