Over 50 prominent names in the UK retail industry have recently joined forces to champion diversity and inclusivity in their workplaces. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has initiated a new charter, which has garnered support from renowned retailers such as John Lewis, All Saints, Burberry, Boots, and Superdry. By becoming members of this charter, these retailers have made six important pledges to promote diversity and inclusivity within their organizations.

The motivation behind the creation of this charter stems from a recent report published by the BRC, in collaboration with MBS and PwC, which shed light on a lack of diversity in top-level positions across many companies. The report scrutinized over 200 retailers and found that, although progress has been made, a significant gender imbalance continues to persist in senior executive teams. While 33% of boards, 32% of executive boards, and 37.5% of individuals reporting directly to the board are women, this still means that roughly two-thirds of senior positions are occupied by men. Additionally, the study revealed that approximately 20% of retailers have an all-male board, and 15% have no women on their executive committees. Furthermore, men dominate the roles of CEO, CFO, and chair in almost 70% of retailers. The retail sector also exhibits a very low representation of women in top leadership positions, with only 10% of CEOs and a meager 4.3% of sector chairs being female.

The lack of diversity extends beyond gender and also encompasses ethnic representation. The report highlighted an alarming disparity in this regard, with only 4.5% of boards, 5.8% of executive boards, and 6% of direct reports featuring individuals from underrepresented ethnic minority groups, despite such groups making up 12.5% of the UK population.

Despite these sobering statistics, 84% of retailers have prioritized diversity and inclusion. However, less than half of retail employees feel that their employers sufficiently recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion. In response to this imperative issue, the signatories of the new charter have committed to taking specific actions. These actions include appointing diversity and inclusion executives, eradicating bias from recruitment processes, facilitating career opportunities and progression for all employees, actively collecting and contributing data on diversity, fostering respectful and inclusive work environments, and ensuring that all line managers are responsible for supporting equity in the workplace.

In addition to the aforementioned retailers, many other notable brands have also pledged their support to the charter. These include Ann Summers, Argos, Asda, Bravissimo, Joules L’Occitane, MandM Direct, Matalan, Mountain Warehouse, Oliver Bonas, Reiss, Sainsbury’s, Seasalt, Starbucks Studio Retail, Superdrug, Ted Baker, The Fragrance Shop, Very Group, Watches of Switzerland, and The White Company.

The commitment shown by these retailers to prioritize diversity and inclusion is a highly encouraging step towards fostering a more egalitarian and representative retail sector. By taking tangible actions and holding themselves accountable, these companies are setting a commendable example for others to follow. The implementation of the charter’s promises has the potential to bring about substantial change, creating an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive.

Useful Links:
1. BRC – Employment Equality and Diversity
2. PwC – Retail Diversity and Inclusion