24 July 2024, 15:23
By Furniture News Jun 26, 2024

Retail makes strides on diversity but inclusion remains “the nut to crack”, says BRC

Retail leadership is more diverse than ever, according to a new report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and The MBS Group, which reveals that the percentage of female board-level leaders has gone from 32.6% in 2021 to 42.3% in 2024, and the percentage of ethnic minority leaders on boards has nearly tripled from 4.5% to 12% over the same period.

Diversity and Inclusion in UK Retail
, published today, provides an overview of the retail D&I landscape in 2024. The report looked at diversity of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, social mobility, and age. It aims to drive change in the industry by tracking progress made since the report first launched in 2021, and identifies what more needs to be done to ensure all individuals have the opportunity to progress and to prosper.

The report shows that while significant progress on diversity has been made over the last three years, it is not ubiquitous across the industry. More than a third (35%) of retailers still have an all-white board, over half have no ethnic diversity on their executive committees, and areas such as social mobility and disability need much greater focus, says the BRC: "D&I sits high on many shareholder agendas to ensure it is embedded throughout a business, but is not being sufficiently prioritised by some investors or owners.

"Inclusion remains the 'nut to crack'. The report contains analysis of inclusion sentiment by employees in the workplace, which is generally low, particularly regarding recognition and overall feelings of happiness. Employees who chose 'other' or 'prefer not to say' to describe their sexual orientation, and those who are of Black/African/Caribbean background, reported the lowest levels of feeling included in the workplace.

"There is a risk that in the current economic environment, some businesses may take their eye off the D&I ball. Retailers must ensure they continue to drive forward the initiatives that have been working thus far to improve diversity. And they must also look at connecting D&I to other people initiatives to build better workplace cultures that ensure more employees feel included. This will increase employee engagement, productivity, reduce employee turnover, sickness absences and ultimately leads to more successful businesses."

Other key findings in the report include: 98% of retailers have a co-ordinated D&I strategy in place; 67% of businesses now include social mobility in their D&I strategies, compared to just 20% in 2021; 67% of businesses could identify at least one senior leader from the LGBTQ+ community, compared with 27% in 2021; and there is a lack of disabled role models – only 11% of respondents could identify a disabled role model in their business.

In 2021, alongside the first edition of this report, the BRC launched its D&I Charter. Over 90 retailers are now signatories and have pledged to improve D&I by focusing on six areas – CEO oversight, recruitment, progression, reporting, inclusivity, and responsibility. The charter helps retailers to challenge their culture and biases holistically, learn from each other and to embed enhanced D&I into their business.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, says: “I am proud to see the strides retailers have made in just three short years to improve diversity – especially at a time when D&I could easily have been relegated to the sidelines in the face of a turbulent economic backdrop.

"It is clear that initiatives such as our D&I Charter are vitally important in helping retailers learn from each other and drive forward change.

"But, inclusion is the nut the industry still needs to crack. The progress made on diversity will only be meaningful and effective when it happens in tandem with a workforce where every employee feels happy and included. There needs to be greater focus on initiatives to change workplace culture to ensure we see this shift on inclusion. Only then will we complete our mission in creating a truly diverse and inclusive industry.”

Elliott Goldstein, managing partner at The MBS Group, adds: "For the fourth year, MBS is proud to have partnered with the BRC to hold a mirror up to the retail industry. Promisingly, we've seen real progress since our research began in 2021 - more than half of all direct reports into the executive committee in retail today are women.

"However, to ensure lasting change, retailers must continue to drive forward initiatives to ensure diversity across all characteristics, and commit to building work environments that are truly inclusive – particularly with the backdrop of today’s challenging trading environment.”


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