IGD and MBS: Industry continues to drive progress on inclusion and diversity

Date : 23 November 2021

The food and consumer goods industry has continued to prioritise creating an inclusive and diverse workforce, despite the hugely challenging backdrop of the last two years, according to the latest research from IGD and MBS.

With its ambition to create a more inclusive workforce across the food and consumer goods industry, IGD has partnered with recruitment specialist MBS to conduct extensive research into the status of inclusion and diversity in the industry, benchmarking progress since 2019 in a new report, Inclusion and Diversity in Consumer Goods and Grocery.

The latest research, drawn from a survey of more than 200 businesses and conversations with more than 100 Chairs, CEOs and HR Directors in the food and consumer goods industry, shows that gender and ethnic diversity has improved across all leadership levels – board, executive committee and direct reports to the executive committee.

Susan Barratt, CEO IGD, says: “Creating an inclusive working environment plays a fundamental role in attracting great people to work in food and consumer goods, retaining and developing our workforce and ensuring our industry continues to thrive. I’m delighted that our industry has continued to prioritise inclusion and diversity during what has been an incredibly tough couple of years. What’s more, this focus is no longer the preserve of our industry’s bigger businesses; we’re now seeing organisations of all sizes prioritising and making great progress in this area.”

Key findings include:

  • There are more women in senior positions in the sector across all three leadership levels, while 60% of companies have improved female representation in at least at one leadership level
  • There has been a significant jump in the proportion of ethnic minority directors at non-executive board level, while 60% of companies have improved ethnic minority representation in at least one leadership level
  • More than a third (36%) of companies reported having at least one openly LGBTQ+ leader at executive committee or direct reports level, compared to 27% two years ago
  • More than a quarter (28%) of companies have at least one physically disabled leader at executive committee or direct reports level, compared with 15% in 2019
  • Inclusion and diversity have been baked into long-term business strategy and culture. In 2019, more than half (55%) of companies had no coordinated inclusion and diversity strategy – in 2021, more than three-quarters (77%) of businesses now have a formal strategy to increase representation and foster inclusion.

Huw Llewellyn-Waters, Director, Consumer Goods practice at MBS, says: “Consumer goods and grocery businesses can be proud of the meaningful and broad-based progress that has been made in the sector since 2019. Fostering diverse workforces and inclusive environments is not only right morally; it is a commercial imperative, especially in an industry serving such a varied customer base. New generations of consumers and employees are voting with their feet, and businesses that fail to prioritise inclusion and diversity risk being outrun by more forward-thinking competitors.

“Despite the never-before-seen disruption from Brexit and COVID-19, consumer goods and grocery companies have remained committed to inclusion, and it is our hope that this report will play a part in proving that the industry is a truly diverse, exciting and forward-thinking space.”

Susan Barratt continues: “I’m amazed by the energy, commitment and progress of the companies we surveyed. There is more to be done, but the fact we can continue to make progress in such a tough environment bodes well for the future, demonstrating that fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce is now embedded into our industry’s way of thinking.”

This year, IGD has kicked off a reverse mentoring programme to support leaders to champion inclusion. The programme has created a safe and collaborative space for leaders to hear the lived-in experiences of those from under-represented groups, and support companies to drive positive cultural change. Next year, the organisation is increasing the programme at scale. Visit here to find out more and get involved.

Susan Barratt adds: “Our industry leaders need to lead from the front and develop their own authentic understanding of what it takes to build an inclusive culture in their business. Our industry plays a vital role in feeding the nation; we must continue to work together, to accelerate efforts to build a workforce fit for the future.”

Download the latest IGD-MBS benchmarking data and industry case studies.


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Notes to editors:

  1. IGD is an organisation of two interconnected communities. The profits from Commercial Insight are reinvested into Social Impact, which together work to drive change that makes a tangible difference for society, business and the individual.
  2. For more than 30 years, The MBS Group has been a leading sector-specialist executive search firm advising all consumer-facing industries, with a particular focus in the consumer goods and grocery industry. Clients consider us to be the partner of choice when searching for critical leadership roles that make a difference. We work at board level and on executive positions across all functions of strategic importance. For more information, visit www.thembsgroup.co.uk
  3. Social Impact from IGD is delivered in four key areas:
    1. People – focussed on giving young people opportunities to develop their employability and life skills, and on building the knowledge and capability of food and consumer goods industry colleagues, to foster an inclusive and productive workforce;
    2. Health – nutrition experts use the latest research and behavioural science to develop practical tools that help the whole industry. IGD is collaborating with and inspiring companies to adopt best practice and implement change;
    3. Sustainability – focused on mobilising the industry to tackle climate change, reduce food waste, increase food surplus redistribution, develop sustainable packaging systems and accelerate the industry’s progress towards Net Zero;
    4. Economics – supporting better strategic planning and decision making, for the benefit of consumers, through economic analysis and engagement with policy makers.
  4. All content is owned by IGD. If you use or refer to any content in this press release, please credit IGD
  5. Follow us on Twitter: @fromIGD