Retailers must double down on D&I

The retail industry must “double down” to make a meaningful difference on diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a new report shows that “there is still a long way to go until the industry truly reflects the communities it serves”, with women still underrepresented at most senior levels, a lack of ethnic diversity among boards and executive committees, and a lack of black leaders across the industry.

Tracking progress on diversity and inclusion in UK Retail”, launched today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and The MBS Group, shows that over a third of retailers have all-white Boards, or all-white executive committees, and that women account for less than 40% of boards and executive committees.

However, there has been improvement. More retailers are prioritising making their businesses more inclusive. 91% of retailers now have a co-ordinated D&I strategy in place, compared to 76% last year, and 74% of these are now led by CEOs, compared with just 50% 2021. You cannot overturn embedded societal structures and associated inequalities overnight, so solutions will take concerted efforts to change company culture from top to bottom.

This report shines a light on D&I in the retail industry in 2022, looking at gender, race and ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability, social mobility and age. It will be released annually to showcase great practices, provide visibility of the outcomes being achieved for all to see, and highlight what more needs to be done going forward to ensure every single individual has equal opportunity to prosper in a business. It aims to play a key role in driving positive change in the industry. It follows last year’s launch of the BRC’s D&I Charter, of which over 75 retailers are now signatories, pledging to improve D&I in the retail industry, and the first D&I report assessing the 2021 retail landscape in terms of diversity.

Other key findings include:

  • Black people make up 2.4% of store colleagues, but less than 1% at senior manager level and above
  • 4.9 percentage point improvement in the % of women on retail boards, from 32.6% in 2021 to 37.5% in 2022.
  • Only 59% of D&I strategies focus on social mobility, 29% focus on age, and 76% focus on disability

The report also looks at what barriers retailers face when trying to improve diversity in their businesses. Issues include lack of data, insufficient resources, and competing priorities. The report also looks at best practices and measures that can adopted to take the industry forward. For example, retailers need to customise their D&I strategies with insights from, and engagement with employees, invest in more comprehensive data collection, develop diverse talent pipelines, and set targets and measure progress.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:

“It is time to embed inclusion into the culture of every business. Nearly 80 leading retailers have come together to sign our D&I Charter promising every individual the opportunity to prosper. The will is clearly there but the industry must double down to drive the diversity outcomes we aspire to.

“Diverse businesses are more successful businesses. While retailers are increasingly committed to D&I, this will take time to translate into results. Women are still underrepresented at the most senior levels, ethnic diversity urgently needs addressing, and areas such as social mobility, disability and age are still not sufficiently prioritised in strategies.

“We all know the challenges, we all want to act, so now we now need to mobilise and focus on delivery of outcomes. Retail is a brilliant industry, the 3m people who work within are brilliant people but without greater diversity, we remain far from achieving our true potential.”

Elliott Goldstein, Managing Partner at The MBS Group, said:

“Progress creating more diverse leadership in retail has been offset by a number of backward steps. On the one hand, retailers can be proud of the headway they’ve made on D&I strategies, which are now more common and more comprehensive than they were last year, and more women sit on retail boards than ever before. On the other hand, progress towards representation is worryingly slow, with the industry’s most senior positions still dominated by white men, and fewer women in the pipeline beneath Executive Committee. In our current commercial landscape, retailers must work harder to reflect the communities they serve. The time for change was yesterday.”

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