Sainsbury's Whitechapel Colleagues

Source: Sainsbury’s

The report found fewer than half of businesses have adopted a co-ordinated strategy on diversity and inclusion 

The food and grocery industry still has more work to do on diversity despite making strides in the past five years, according to a new report from IGD.

Although the vast majority (84%) of companies in the industry believed they were performing better today than they were five years ago on diversity and inclusion, fewer than half (45%) of businesses have adopted a co-ordinated strategy on the topic, the research, launched by IGD and executive search firm The MBS Group, in association with PwC, found.

Despite a genuine desire to do more across the industry, there was a reluctance to talk more openly about diversity and inclusion in case businesses were seen to be “behind the curve”, the report added.

Drawing on data captured from more than 200 companies and conversations with more than 100 chairmen and women, CEOs and HR directors, the Diversity in Food and Grocery report aims to paint a true picture of diversity and inclusion in the industry, as well as highlighting examples of how organisations are driving greater diversity in practice.

IGD CEO Susan Barratt said: “Studies have shown that more diverse and inclusive workplaces have a higher level of employee engagement, are more productive and are more profitable.

“The response and interest in this project from across our industry has been fantastic. There’s no doubt much is happening at an individual business level, as well as collaboratively. However, this research also clearly demonstrates there is a need - and an appetite - to do a lot more.”

Key findings of the Diversity in Food and Grocery report include:

• The median gender pay gap within the food and grocery industry is lower than the UK economy as a whole (6.8% versus 9.6%), according to analysis by PwC. However, fewer than 10% of companies surveyed are prepared for ethnicity pay gap reporting if it is introduced in coming years.

• On gender, an average of 27.6% of board roles are occupied by women. At executive committee level this drops to 22.2%. Compared with the latest Hampton-Alexander Review figures, food and grocery is ahead of the FTSE 350 cross-industry average, though it is unlikely to reach the target of 33% women by the end of 2020.

• At 11.4%, the percentage of board members in the food and grocery industry from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background is very close to reflecting the UK working age population at large (12.5%).

• When asked to consider their wider senior leadership teams, 27% of interviewees were able to identify an openly LGTBQ leader within their business.

• Fifteen per cent of interviewees were able to identify someone with a physical disability, though no one was identified at the executive committee level, despite 19% of the working age population having a disability.

• At the leadership level, across a sample of more than 50 companies, the average age of board members in food and grocery is 57 years old. This is slightly below the average across the FTSE 350 of 60 years old, while at 54, the average age of executive committee members is in line with the FTSE 350.

• Almost 70% of interviewees believe food and grocery is one of the best industries for promoting social mobility, while two-thirds of companies reported they were taking active steps to encourage it.

“The progress that has been made in gender equality and the wide range of initiatives already in place to nurture female talent is particularly encouraging,” Barratt said.

“But there are other levers of diversity beyond gender that can also help to create a diverse workforce - age, ethnicity, LGBTQ, social mobility and disability, amongst others. The research shows there is much more to do in these areas, to help businesses unlock new sources of talent for the future. IGD will continue to champion this important topic and make sure it stays high on our industry’s agenda.”

Jon Terry, people and organisation consulting partner at PwC UK, added: “While the case for diversity and inclusion is strong in all business sectors, it’s especially so in an industry like food and grocery, where the customer reigns supreme.

“What’s clear from businesses that are making the strongest progress on diversity is that this requires the same board-level direction, organisation-wide push, understanding of the data and regular reporting, intervention and incentives that would be applied to any other strategic priority. In short, diversity and inclusion need to be a part of an organisation’s strategy and its cultural DNA.”