Firms' backing grows for diversity campaign

Major UK companies are signing up to a campaign bent on increasing racial and ethnic representation in senior leadership roles at large firms - and the campaign has not formally launched yet.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), in conjunction with founder partners such as of Microsoft, Aviva and Deloitte, announced at the start of the month that the 'Change the Race Ratio' would be launched at the end of October.However, the CBI revealed on Monday that 20 additional companies had already pledged support for the campaign. They include Axa, Diageo, ITV, KPMG, Pearson, PwC and Siemens.Companies signing up to the campaign make commitments to increase diversity at senior level and to set targets to achieve at least one racial or ethnic minority board member in FTSE 100 companies by end 2021. Among FTSE 250 companies, the target date is 2024.Signatories must also commit to publish plans within 12 months to increase diversity at executive committee (ExCo) level within 12 months and establish a separate target for black participation at both ExCo and ExCo-minus levels.All companies will be required to publish progress in their annual reports as well as disclosing ethnicity pay gaps by 2022, at the latest. The CBI said the aim was to create an inclusive culture in which talent from all diversities could thrive by focusing on recruitment and talent development processes, and by working with a more diverse set of suppliers and partners, including minority owned businesses.Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the CBI, said: “We have been overwhelmed with interest from businesses since we launched our campaign; they have told us that they want very much to make progress in this critical area and they are making the key commitments to change.
"We recognise there is a problem we have to address as a business community; we have known it for some time, but progress has been too slow.  The benefits of increasing racial and ethnic participation in business goes way beyond the obvious question of fairness and appropriateness in society today; we know from a range of studies that not only are diverse companies more attractive to talent and have better employee satisfaction, they also perform better."And not doing it costs us money; in 2017 the McGregor-Smith review found that lack of ethnic diversity in business cost the UK £24 billion a year in lost GDP. So it is high time we act and I am very pleased that so many companies have already responded to our urgent call for action.  We look forward to welcoming many more to our campaign over the coming weeks”.Cindy Rampersaud, senior vice-president at Pearson, said her company was committed to "ensuring that we are an inclusive and diverse organisation where every employee belongs, can develop and thrive".She added: "By ensuring that our products and services are aligned with this commitment, our organisation will be set up for success as the world’s trusted learning company, keeping true to our mission to help people access education and learning and make progress in their lives."This is why we are delighted to join this campaign as part of our drive to increase racial and ethnic participation in our business, as well help others to make change."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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