Diversity and inclusion, views from the industry: Ash Amirahmadi, managing director, Arla Foods UK

Date : 17 November 2020

Could you give us an introduction into Arla, D&I and where you are positioned within that?

Arla is the third-largest food company in the UK, probably most well-known for our brands including Lurpak, Cravendale and Anchor. We are a farmer cooperative which is quite unique as a business, with 11,000 farmers across the company. And we’re cooperative by nature, too - there’s a sense of belonging very quickly, and of being a very values focussed business.

We are still quite early into our D&I journey, but we have a clear strategy, both for the UK and globally. We’re measuring our progress and seeing improvement in a number of metrics. The really important part is enabling and creating an environment where people feel confident to express their ideas, to challenge and to create – that, for me, is the most exciting part of diversity and inclusion.

We come from an extremely male orientated, middle-aged place. Personally, I’m someone of mixed race and cultures, and after 25 years of working in business, I have experienced my fair share of unconscious bias. In turn, this has made me aware of my own bias, which is very important as a leader: it has to start with you.

As you embark on your journey, what are your areas of focus for D&I?

My main focus is leadership and developing leaders to be empathetic. At Arla, there’s a leadership team of 12, plus a group we call The Change Leadership Forum. This consists of 45 people, not just the top leaders, but those who report into the leadership team and have the most impact on our company as a whole. If you can engage those 45 people, change becomes a lot easier.

We find a more varied range of views within The Change Leadership Forum, and the D&I agenda very much sits there.