New research highlights a substantial gap between senior leadership simply discussing diversity strategies and these initiatives actually being implemented by companies within the food and consumer goods industry. 

Research by IGD, a research and training charity within the food and grocery industry, identifies the key challenges for companies within this industry to put diversity and inclusion strategies in place.

According to the report, many of the companies surveyed found 2020 to be a “catalyst for change” and therefore have worked to gain senior alignment in order to have more meaningful conversations across the workforce.

This is clearly reflected through the data as around four in five companies (80 per cent) reported having diversity and inclusion as part of their discussions with senior leadership.

However, only half of companies (50 per cent) stated that they actually had a diversity and inclusion strategy in place within their company, suggesting around three in 10 companies are struggling to translate their words into actions.

Overwhelmingly, the large majority of the remaining companies (45 per cent) felt that they were “on the starting blocks” with their strategies linked to diversity and inclusion. These organisations stated that they still had yet to formally set out their intentions with this.

Key barriers which prevented these companies from addressing the issues of diversity and inclusion included the need to focus on COVID-19 and struggling to achieve leadership buy-in.

A significant component to diversity and inclusion strategies was gender diversity – with over nine in 10 companies (90 per cent) stating this was addressed within their diversity and inclusion plans.

Conversely, half of companies (50 per cent) struggled to make progress regarding ethnicity as the companies felt they had inaccurate data and a lack of relatable role models.

Another area that was largely over-looked was utilising data as only 40 per cent of the firms surveyed stated that they set targets which measured the progress being made within diversity and inclusion.

In order to assist these companies within the food and grocery industry which are struggling with diversity initiatives, IGD recommended the following tips to identify practical steps firms can take to progress diversity:

  1.  Define what I&D means for your organisation
  2.  Identify your strengths and priorities for improvement
  3. Lead from the top
  4. Set targets and measure progress
  5.  Foster an inclusive culture and mindset
  6. Educate and support your line managers
  7. Identify and prioritise interventions
  8.  Share success stories
  9.  Learn from others
  10. Keep I&D high on your organisation’s agenda

Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD, said:

As the largest consumer-facing industry and largest private sector employer, the need for our industry to lead the inclusion and diversity agenda is significant.  Last year, we made a pledge to champion this important topic and ensure it stays high on the industry’s agenda. One year on and we remain fully committed to driving this agenda forward.

Despite what has been a very turbulent year, there is vast evidence to suggest that an inclusive and diverse organisation will help organisations prosper in the future.  Our insight gained from our conversations with senior leaders reveal that many recognise that consumers, employees, investors and trading partners are increasingly expecting them to demonstrate strong I&D (inclusion and diversity) values and plans that align with this.

We are determined to make sure we keep the conversation going.  I&D is a journey for the long term. To accelerate, we must embrace it in all levels of our organisations and tackle it in a multi-dimensional way.  Together, we will encourage a continuous conversation and support organisations through the coming year.

*This research was taken from IGD’s industry survey which was conducted in October 2020. To obtain these results, 30 companies within the sector were surveyed as well as senior HR leaders across major retailers, food service providers and medium to large branded manufacturers.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.