Looking at how we can improve equality, diversity and inclusion at Grand UnionBy Aileen Evans, Group Chief Executive Monday 23 August 2021
Last May, the murder of George Floyd sparked protests across the world which saw the Black Lives Matter campaign hit the headlines. With the spotlight being shone on racial inequality and injustice, we wanted to look at what we could do to improve. We shied away from making a public statement at the time because we didn’t want to be seen as just saying words when actions were needed. Since then, we’ve taken the time to educate ourselves and look at how we can ensure that we are a truly inclusive organisation, not just in terms of race, but for all nine protected characteristics. This work has culminated in the creation of our new strategy that we’ve called the Belonging strategy. Why the name? We believe that everyone has a right to feel that they belong in their workplace and their community. Belonging is about an individual sense of acceptance, equality to have the same opportunities as others, inclusion in the behavioural norms that make us feel welcome and diversity is about appreciating uniqueness. The overall aim of this strategy is to bring together Grand Union’s thoughts on how we achieve a sense of belonging for all our colleagues and Board members, and a sense of fairness and inclusion for our customers. We want to celebrate diversity and challenge stigma, speaking up when we see others being treated badly. We want everyone to understand and appreciate how diversity makes us stronger and that we can learn and benefit from each other’s different backgrounds and experiences. We want all our colleagues and Board members to be allies for “people of the global majority” (PGM represent over 80% of the world’s population. We have chosen to use this reference, as we believe it is more positive and empowering than using terms such as “minority”), take an anti-racist and pro-diversity stance and remove unconscious bias. The strategy sets out our targets to create a culture and environment where colleagues feel they belong and can bring their whole selves to work. To help us do this, colleagues from across the organisation set up the Belonging group; they’re from all levels of the business, and includes Board members. They will be guiding what we do, helping us to be better. They’ve already been working hard over the past few months, helping us shape the strategy and also educating us along the way. The Belonging group has helped us celebrate numerous religious festivals (including Passover, Vesak, Guru Nanak’s birthday, Passover, some Jehovah Witness traditions and more) on GUS, our intranet, with colleagues from across the business volunteering to write blogs telling us about their background, how they are celebrated and also sharing their personal involvement and experiences. GUS has also been used for colleagues to share their experiences – good and bad. A number of colleagues have highlighted their struggles with being accepted after coming out, or how they’ve had to deal with racism. This is key for our aim of developing a shared understanding with colleagues through training and cultural celebrations, of the benefits we all gain from each other’s different backgrounds, beliefs and experiences. The Belonging group also worked alongside the Housing Diversity Network (HDN) and together they gave crucial feedback which helped the Board shape the extent of the Belonging strategy. Our next steps are to continue to educate ourselves and to strive to improve to ensure we are a fully accessible organisation to colleagues, customers and partners. Working with our customers will be really important, and this is the next big phase of our Belonging strategy. I think it’s critical we all learn more about each other, not just within Grand Union, but also in the areas in which we operate and beyond, so we can all feel that sense of belonging. We want to become a stronger organisation, bringing about lasting change by becoming more diverse, inclusive and equal. I’m proud to work alongside colleagues who are making this happen by doing rather than talking. I look forward to sharing more of our journey with you in the coming months.