diverse team colleagues meeting

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Being inclusive, listening and positively responding will lead to far richer business solutions

In the wake of major social and political events over recent years, leading companies are taking steps to increase diversity and inclusion. However, these programmes often take time to make an effective change, so that leads to a natural question: What do companies need to do to drive it forward at pace?

People are increasingly looking for purpose and meaning in their lives and are more informed than ever before. The pandemic has amplified inequalities in society and highlights that in many ways we are small cogs in an ecosystem we can’t control.

We are looking for leadership – whether that be political, corporate or community – that represents us and the realities we face. It is down to us to lead by example. We need to be more questioning and accountable for the footprint we create and leave. It’s not about tokenism, box ticking or jumping on a bandwagon, as that doesn’t pass the authenticity test.

Britvic’s Healthier People, Healthier Planet strategy puts people and planet on par with performance, to create a more open, diverse, and inclusive business. We strongly believe diversity in business is about more than gender, race, and ethnicity. It includes employees with diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures, disabilities and neurodiversity. We need to grow authentic cultures, be empathetic, listen and humanise so that we can unlock more innovation, creativity, and growth within the workplace.

On a personal level, my own family is neurodiverse. We represent dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder, and autism spectrum disorder. This has really opened my eyes to the challenges but also the many opportunities from neurodiversity. I am extremely fortunate that we have the support needed, whereas I know others may not. Finding and getting access to the right support can be difficult.

We therefore need to ensure that, in the current system, individuals do not get lost. We have to give people the opportunity to realise their full potential, especially if they have different thought processing that may not fit with the ‘traditional’ way things are done – it’s about being inclusive, listening and positively responding. It will lead to far richer business solutions.

I’m proud to be part of a leadership team at Britvic that is committed to creating a working environment that makes a positive difference for my colleagues. I am the executive sponsor for the B-Proud network in our business, which helps connect and support our LGBTQ+ employees – made hugely enjoyable by my energetic and passionate colleagues. We proactively encourage and support network groups on disability, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality and strongly believe that if you start with inclusion and get that right, diversity will follow.

I believe that everyone should have a fair and equal opportunity. We have successfully grown B-Proud through our partnership with Stonewall, a charity that believes we are stronger united and will help us create real change for the better by challenging and improving our understanding, policies and processes. As a leader, I often find that taking a stand and showing support and encouragement from the top is the catalyst for positive change.

I am fortunate that I can take a stand and encourage open conversation to create an inclusive environment. This will help people like those in my family and others to have true opportunities available to them. I have already seen people start to see strength in “opening up” rather than it being perceived as a weakness.

We can all do our bit to change and create inclusive workplaces where everyone has an opportunity to thrive and that is what we are working on. We all need to be open to new ideas and welcome fresh thinking and the unconventional. It is this that will create workplaces that are open to all kinds of diverse, talented people and environments where all can thrive.

Above all else, we should care about each other and about cultivating an inclusive working environment where we are all supported and empowered to be our true selves. As industry leaders, if we each take the initiative to foster a true culture of acceptance that embraces diversity, we can all truly flourish.