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55 UK retailers pledge to improve diversity and inclusion following BRC report

By Huw Hughes

25 Mar 2021

Retail

Fifty-five UK retailers have pledged to take “decisive action to improve diversity practices across the retail industry” after signing up to a diversity and inclusion (D&I) charter led by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

By signing the charter, the retailers commit to appointing diversity and inclusion executives; improving recruitment practices to remove bias; supporting career opportunity and progression for all; collecting and contribute data on diversity; creating a respectful and inclusive work environment; and ensuring all line managers are responsible for supporting equity in the workplace.

Fashion retailers signed up to the pledge include All Saints, Ann Summers, Burberry, John Lewis, Joules, Matalan, Mountain Warehouse, Oliver Bonas, Reiss, Seasalt, Studio Retail, Superdry, Ted Baker, The Very Group, The Watches of Switzerland Group, and The White Company.

It follows the publication of a flagship report on Thursday by BRC, The MBS Group and PwC that found “more work is needed to create a fully diverse and equitable retail industry”.

The report found that while 32.6 percent of boards, 32 percent of executive boards and 37.5 percent of direct reports to board are women, more than one in five retailers have no women at all on their boards, and 15 percent have no women on their executive committees.

It also found that 69 percent of retailers have an all-male trio of CEO, chief financial officer and chair. Only 9.6 percent of the industry’s CEOs are women and only 4.3 percent of the sector’s chairs are women.

More effort needed to address inequalities

Retailers also have very few black or ethnic minority leaders, the report found, with just 4.5 percent of boards, 5.8 percent of executive committees, and 6 percent of direct reports to boards coming from an ethnic minority background, compared to 12.5 percent of the UK population.

Despite this, 84 percent of retailers said that D&I is a priority in their business. However, less than half (49 percent) of retail employees agree that D&I is sufficiently high up on their employers’ agenda.

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said there is “so much more to be done” to make the retail industry a “diversity and inclusion leader”, but said she is “confident about the road ahead”.

She said in the report: “The first step to achieving change is acknowledgement and understanding of where the challenges lie. Now, we must act. I am proud to see so many retailers pledge to better their businesses and create equal opportunities for all and I am excited to see what the future holds once greater diversity and inclusion is achieved.”

BRC said it will continue to track and publish regular updates on progress made in the industry.

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