• Linda Ellett, Partner |
5 min read

3 ways the grocery trade is tackling diversity and inclusion at work

Some of the content in this blog may be triggering, topics include references to suicide. Please also be reminded that should you wish to seek support, the GroceryAid helpline is available 24/7, 08088 021 122.

What are the biggest themes right now in diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace? At the annual D&I in Grocery LIVE! Event in 2022, 1,500 delegates heard how industry trailblazers are meeting the unique needs of all stakeholders. Inspired by great speakers and their stories, these are my top three take-aways from a day that encouraged learning across more than 45 D&I topics. 

D&I in Grocery LIVE! is part of the D&I in Grocery, 12-month programme made by the industry, for the industry. KPMG was one of 77 partners in 2022 and we’re very excited to continue our partnership into 2023. 

Bring your authentic self to work

Every speaker touched on authenticity and the value in bringing your true self to work, and right from the start we were inspired by the bravery of Maya Jethwa, Regional Sales Manager at Moët Hennessy, who took to the stage with her impactful exploration of identity, and how freedom to share your perspective, values and beliefs creates a better work environment.

Maya came out after 35 years of “suppressing her sexuality and leading a double life”, just wanting to “fit in”. Her journey, and its many ups and downs, saw her spearhead the company’s LGBTIQ+ movement and Pride campaign, before very publicly “lifting the lid” on her authentic self. Ultimately, Maya enabled a more inclusive workplace at Moët Hennessy that reflects the world in which we live and “celebrates and maximises the uniqueness of every employee.”

Echoing Maya’s view, Andy Phelps, Business Services Director at the Co-op, explained that around half of the LGBTIQ+ community will not admit to their sexuality at work. After a distressing incident early in his career, Andy committed to be his authentic self.

“When I wasn’t my best self, I felt awful. I didn’t want to go to work, I wasn’t performing.”

Now, as a senior leader, Andy vowed “not to let that happen to anyone else on my watch.”

For Tesco Mobile’s CEO Claire Pickthall, it is easy to be authentic when you fit in and reflect the people around you. “So, one of the most important things a CEO can do, is create an environment where people can thrive and be themselves. Because, when you bring all of you for the best of us, we get magic.”

Making diversity everyone’s business

Is everybody really listening when it comes to driving D&I strategy within their workplaces? Do they pay lip service to D&I, without understanding what it means nor how to effect real change? Senior managers who truly engage with diverse opinions, can mine the richness of perspectives and incorporate them into corporate thinking, strategy and culture going forward.

To do so, Diageo GB’s Digital Director, Simone Sargeant, advocated surrounding yourself with a diverse board of advisers. “Some won’t agree with you and will challenge your thinking and beliefs. But they may generate a change in mindset.” For Andy at the Co-op, fixing simple things, like removing the requirement to state “gender at birth” in apprenticeship applications, make a big difference.

And recognising the potential complexity of fixing everything at once, Busi Sizani, Head of Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Deliveroo, urged companies to look at a single system – perhaps a recruitment or performance review process – from beginning to end through the lens of diversity. “Look at who is getting through, who is getting stuck, and ask yourself the tough questions about ‘why’,” she said.

“In trying to be inclusive, it's almost certain that you will exclude someone along the way. You'll say the wrong thing, prioritise the wrong thing, misjudge or misinterpret what someone tells you. But the vast diversity of human needs is an impossible challenge to overcome. We will never fully ‘solve it’ but we can get one step closer every time we try. If you continue to be curious, to listen and to learn, you will contribute to progress.”  Lucy Pringle, Senior Manager, KPMG in the UK

Create equal opportunities across the grocery supply chain

In a world where everything is on demand, supply chain sits at the heart of business. But a lingering perception that the supply chain is inflexible, creates challenges with recruitment and retention.

Anujah DeWit is a mother, of Sri Lankan heritage and likes to lead by example in her role as head of the food supply chain at Sainsbury. But she battles misconceptions that a career in supply chain meansworking weekends and unsociable hours, which dissuades mothers, and that it lacks professional status, which does not sit well with some ethnic groups. If no one says “I’m going to work in supply chain when I leave school, we need to collectively change the dialogue and create a pathway,” she explained. Sainsbury is looking into professional qualifications for supply chain apprenticeships and is talking with universities to incorporate supply chain into degree courses.

Andrew Shaw heads up supply chain operations at Nestlé in the UK and Ireland. He said: “Nestlé is working hard at communicating supply chain opportunities in schools, especially in more deprived and ethnically diverse areas.” To be more equitable, the business has shifted from experience-based assessment to strength-based assessment. “We focus on who you are and what you can bring to your future career”, as past experiences can be tinged with privilege and prejudice.

Inspiration came from the energetic Mariama Conteh, Store Director at M&M’S London. “I climbed the ladder,” she says. “I’m proud to be female, black and a mother – who went from a part-time Sales Associate to Store Director.” She puts her success down to resilience, adaptability and positivity in the face of knock-backs and people giving her opportunities they could have taken for themselves. So, she urged: “Do not take the ladder with you. Leave it for someone else who doesn’t look like you, or sound like you.”

Perhaps, however, the greatest wisdom from D&I in Grocery LIVE! is that it’s not just one parent, or one ethnic minority colleague, or one LGBTIQ+ member, or one disabled person who inspires ways to do things differently, but the collective voice. It is the snippets of conversations, the examples and learnings that are openly shared, which will ultimately drive the change in the grocery industry. And indeed beyond.  It truly was a privilege to share such an inspiring day with everyone.

“In 22 years at KPMG, I’ve had many proud days. But watching my colleague, Dan Hughes, bravely share his personal story of suicide survival with 1,600 people was something else. In the UK, someone ends their own life every 40 seconds. To all companies, Dan’s message is don’t underestimate the power of what you do in helping someone with mental health issues. You might just be saving someone’s life.”  Linda Ellett, Partner, UK Sector Lead for Consumer Markets, Retail & Leisure, KPMG 

If you would like to continue the conversation, please contact Linda Ellett.