How Asda is using diversity to gain a long term business advantage The European Parliament debate of May 18 took a vote to amend heavily proposals by the Commission to tighten up European legislation on racial discrimination, particularly in business. The nub of the change will be to place the onus of proof on companies cited in any cases brought against them. In its present form, once implemented by member states, positive proof of non-discrimination will be needed. Race is just one aspect of diversity ­ and the retail industry is coming to see diversity and equality as a way to reach new markets and to enjoy the benefits of a workforce which draws on the strengths of all sections of the population. "Businesses are increasingly under scrutiny for their practices and their communications," says Farrah Qureshi, principal diversity consultant of CCDU, based at the University of Leeds. Asda is an example of a multiple committed to diversity and equality in all its functions. CCDU has worked with the Leeds-based chain on its approach to diversity in recruitment advertising, generated initially by a desire to be more responsive to its diverse customer base. "In my first session with Asda and their consultants TCS, we built on the growing recognition that valuing diversity and removing barriers to opportunity provides benefits to all." Asda ads already show staff in adapted uniforms. "It's worth emphasising that our aim has been to help Asda to maximise its pool of candidates for job roles." Asda is also an active participant Yorkshire Business Diversity Network, working alongside firms such as Yorkshire TV, the Yorkshire Bank and senior officials of HM Customs & Excise. "A workforce which reflects the diversity of the community is not a luxury, it's a necessity. Retailers who reflect the community they serve, through staff as well as goods and services, will attract business and customer loyalty. Ethnic minorities have a spending potential of millions ­ are you missing out? I often ask are you losing sales from not reaching all segments of your customer population?'" Qureshi is working to challenge people to think about stereotypes and assumptions. "For instance, people with disabilities may be overlooked by some firms, but they often have a high level of IT literacy." {{PEOPLE MOVES }}