IGD and MBS: industry drives progress on inclusion, diversity

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Inclusion and Diversity in Consumer Goods
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The food and consumer goods industry has continued to prioritise creating an inclusive and diverse workforce, despite the hugely challenging backdrop of the last two years, according to the latest research from IGD and MBS.

With its ambition to create a more inclusive workforce across the food and consumer goods industry, IGD has partnered with recruitment specialist MBS to conduct extensive research into the status of inclusion and diversity in the industry, benchmarking progress since 2019 in a new report, Inclusion and Diversity in Consumer Goods and Grocery.

The latest research, drawn from a survey of more than 200 businesses and conversations with more than 100 Chairs, CEOs and HR Directors in the food and consumer goods industry, shows that gender and ethnic diversity has improved across all leadership levels – board, executive committee and direct reports to the executive committee.

Susan Barratt, CEO IGD, says: “Creating an inclusive working environment plays a fundamental role in attracting great people to work in food and consumer goods, retaining and developing our workforce and ensuring our industry continues to thrive. I’m delighted that our industry has continued to prioritise inclusion and diversity during what has been an incredibly tough couple of years. What’s more, this focus is no longer the preserve of our industry’s bigger businesses; we’re now seeing organisations of all sizes prioritising and making great progress in this area.”

Key findings include:

  • There are more women in senior positions in the sector across all three leadership levels, while 60 per cent of companies have improved female representation in at least at one leadership level
  • There has been a significant jump in the proportion of ethnic minority directors at non-executive board level, while 60 per cent of companies have improved ethnic minority representation in at least one leadership level
  • More than a third (36 per cent) of companies reported having at least one openly LGBTQ+ leader at executive committee or direct reports level, compared to 27 per cent two years ago
  • More than a quarter (28 per cent) of companies have at least one physically disabled leader at executive committee or direct reports level, compared with 15 per cent in 2019
  • Inclusion and diversity have been baked into long-term business strategy and culture. In 2019, more than half (55 per cent) of companies had no coordinated inclusion and diversity strategy – in 2021, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of businesses now have a formal strategy to increase representation and foster inclusion.

“Consumer goods and grocery businesses can be proud of the meaningful and broad-based progress that has been made in the sector since 2019,” said Huw Llewellyn-Waters, Director, Consumer Goods practice at MBS. “Fostering diverse workforces and inclusive environments is not only right morally; it is a commercial imperative, especially in an industry serving such a varied customer base. New generations of consumers and employees are voting with their feet, and businesses that fail to prioritise inclusion and diversity risk being outrun by more forward-thinking competitors.”

Susan Barratt added: “I’m amazed by the energy, commitment and progress of the companies we surveyed. There is more to be done, but the fact we can continue to make progress in such a tough environment bodes well for the future, demonstrating that fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce is now embedded into our industry’s way of thinking.”

This year, IGD has kicked off a reverse mentoring programme to support leaders to champion inclusion. The programme has created a safe and collaborative space for leaders to hear the lived-in experiences of those from under-represented groups, and support companies to drive positive cultural change. Next year, the organisation is increasing the programme at scale. Visit here to find out more and get involved.

Download the latest IGD-MBS benchmarking data and industry case studies here.