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Getting real on race

A message from Nestlé UK & Ireland CEO, Stefano Agostini
Black Lives Matter

The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests have prompted business leaders around the world to ask searching questions about their organisation. Are we part of the problem or the solution? Are we doing enough on race and inclusion?

These questions prompted me to write to all of our employees in the UK and Ireland last month to demand that we 'get real' about this topic.

Nestlé is a huge global business with a diverse workforce across nearly every country in the world. But the truth is, here in the UK and Ireland, around 9 out of 10 people in our workforce are white - and that must change if our business is to properly reflect the diversity of our society.

I am challenging everybody in our organisation to think, talk and act in this space, however uncomfortable it may be. I want people talking about race, about inequality and about why it should ever be called into question that black lives matter.

I am sincerely grateful to a number of black colleagues here at Nestlé who have taken the time, and had the patience, to begin to educate me and others on what being part of our organisation means to them, and what they want to see from us.

Their counsel will remain invaluable throughout our next steps, but the responsibility belongs to everybody at Nestlé to act and to act now.

So what are we doing?

We are going to properly educate ourselves on this topic. We are going to take the same serious approach we have taken to become a more inclusive business in a myriad of other ways and apply that to race.

This week we have signed up to The Race At Work Charter and its five central commitments:

  1. Appoint an Executive Sponsor for race
  2. Capture ethnicity data and publicise progress
  3. Commit at Board level to zero tolerance of harassment and bullying
  4. Make clear that supporting equality in the workplace is the responsibility of all leaders and managers
  5. Take action that supports ethnic minority career progression

Over the coming months:

  • We will establish a network of BAME colleagues and allies from across Nestlé UK & Ireland to inform and scrutinise our next steps.
  • We will create the space for that group to have a much louder voice inside and outside the organisation through our communication channels and platforms.
  • We will set up a detailed review of our actions and policies when it comes to race. This will include:
    • Listening to the experiences of our colleagues and implementing the changes they need to see to feel safe and supported in our organisation.
    • Looking closely at our hiring processes and how we can increase representation and diversity at all levels across our business.
    • Reviewing our marketing approach to ensure that people from all backgrounds are properly represented in our consumer communications and that we are taking an active stand against racism.
    • Finding opportunities to support BAME communities around our UK and Irish locations through fundraising and volunteering.
  • We will partner with organisations who can support our efforts, give us fresh perspectives from outside of Nestlé and hold us to account.
  • We will work with our Trade Union partners to make sure that our approach is as inclusive and collaborative as possible.
  • We will keep the discussion on race at the front and centre of our minds and we will communicate regularly to outline the steps we have taken and demonstrate the results we have achieved.

We have made a start this month by reminding everyone at Nestlé of their responsibilities and the ways they can get involved:

  • Speak up if they see any discrimination whatsoever. Make sure it is called out.
  • Support our colleagues, champion their cause and check in on their wellbeing.
  • Learn through our training and development courses that focus on understanding and valuing our differences.
  • Volunteer to be part of the network that will shape our plans.

We often celebrate the diversity of Nestlé. We are a diverse, global business that does not tolerate racism, harassment or discrimination of any kind. We have celebrated our progress in recent years on our commitments to LGBTQ+ colleagues, our focus on mental health and our flexible working culture. We are very proud to have 78 different nationalities represented in our UK and Ireland workforce.

On race, I am absolutely clear that Nestlé can, and will, do more. We will listen with intention, act with conviction and hold each other accountable. Together we will make it right.

Stefano Agostini