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No appetite for diversity in food and grocery industry, says study


The study titled-‘Diversity in Food and Grocery’ aims to paint a true picture of diversity and inclusion in the industry, and to highlight some examples of how a number of organisations are driving greater diversity in practice (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images).
The study titled-‘Diversity in Food and Grocery’ aims to paint a true picture of diversity and inclusion in the industry, and to highlight some examples of how a number of organisations are driving greater diversity in practice (Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images).

A RESEARCH highlighted on Tuesday (26) that while the food and grocery industry has made great progress on diversity and inclusion, there is still more to do.

Although the vast majority (84 per cent) of companies in the food and grocery industry believe they are performing better today than they were five years ago on diversity and inclusion, fewer than half (45 per cent) of businesses have adopted a coordinated strategy on the topic, the study showed.

“And despite a genuine desire to do more across the industry, there is a reluctance to talk more openly about diversity and inclusion in case businesses are seen to be ‘behind the curve’,” the latest report on diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the food and grocery industry said.

The report was jointly launched by research and training charity IGD and executive search firm the MBS Group, in association with PwC.

It captured data from over 200 companies and conversations with over 100 chairs, chief executives and HR directors.

The study titled-‘Diversity in Food and Grocery’ aims to paint a true picture of diversity and inclusion in the industry, and to highlight some examples of how a number of organisations are driving greater diversity in practice.

The median gender pay gap within the food and grocery industry is lower than the UK economy as a whole (6.8 per cent versus 9.6 per cent), according to analysis by PwC.

However, fewer than 10 per cent of companies surveyed are prepared for ethnicity pay gap reporting, if it is introduced in the coming years.

On gender, an average of 27.6 per cent of board roles are occupied by women. At the executive committee level, this drops to 22.2 per cent, while 35.9 per cent of direct reports (into the executive committee) are women.

Compared with the latest Hampton-Alexander Review figures, food and grocery is ahead of the FTSE 350 cross-industry average at the executive committee and direct reports levels, although it is unlikely to reach the Hampton-Alexander target of 33 per cent women by the end of 2020.

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

Some 5.7 per cent of executive committee members and 7.1 per cent of direct reports are BAME.

Most companies do not collect complete data around ethnic diversity.

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

As most companies do not collect data on LGBTQ, it is difficult to measure how accurately the food and grocery industry workforce reflects wider society.

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.

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.

Jon Terry, People and Organisation Consulting Partner, PwC UK, said: “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.”

The study showed that 15 per cent of interviewees were able to identify someone with a physical disability, although no one was identified at the executive committee level, despite 19 per cent of the working-age population having a disability.

Again, most companies do not collect data on disability, but the approach to physical disability tends to be more reactive than proactive.