Over a third of retailers have all-white boards or all-white executive committees

The retail industry must “double down” on diversity and inclusion practices in order to “truly reflect the communities it serves”, the British Retail Consortium has said.

The BRC’s latest ‘Tracking Progress on Diversity and Inclusion in UK Retail’ report showed that the sector “still has a long way to go” to achieve equality on several levels.

It painted a picture of an industry where women are still under-represented at the most senior levels, there is a lack of ethnic diversity among boards and executive committees, as well as a lack of black leaders across businesses.

Over a third of retailers have all-white boards or all-white executive committees, the report noted, while women account for less than 40% of board and executive committee roles.

“Diverse businesses are more successful businesses,” said BRC CEO Helen Dickinson. “While retailers are increasingly committed to D&I, this will take time to translate into results.

“Women are still under-represented at the most senior levels, ethnic diversity urgently needs addressing, and areas such as social mobility, disability and age are still not sufficiently prioritised in strategies.”

She called on businesses to “embed inclusion” into their culture, adding that without greater diversity, retail remained “far from achieving our true potential”.

The report showed some progress had been made in the past year. Around 91% of retailers now have a co-ordinated D&I strategy in place, compared with 76% last year.

Female representation on retail boards has also gone up from 32.6% in 2021 to 37.5% in 2022.

D&I strategies are more broad-reaching than last year, with many more including disability (up 28% from last year) and social mobility (59% in 2022 versus 20% in 2021), and the majority (78%) of retailers now collect data on the diversity of their business.

Additionally, the proportion of ethnic minority leaders at board level has increased by 5.1% since last year.

However, the BRC also noted that the momentum on driving up ethnic diversity had slowed since last year, when retailers responded to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The report follows last year’s launch of the BRC’s D&I charter, of which more than 75 retailers are now signatories in a pledge to drive inclusion in the industry.

“The will is clearly there but the industry must double down to drive the diversity outcomes we aspire to,” Dickinson said.

This is the second year that the BRC, in partnership with The MBS Group, has conducted research focusing exclusively on the status of D&I in the UK retail industry.

MBS Group managing partner Elliott Goldstein said that retailers “must work harder to reflect the communities they serve”.

“The time for change was yesterday.”