24 July 2023

Inspiring Diversity and Inclusion: Key Takeaways from the D&I Leaders Event

Unveiling Strategies from 6 Different Top Brands to Foster Inclusion and Drive Meaningful Change.

What we’ll cover in this blog:
  • How sustainability, purpose and inclusion can all work seamlessly together
  • The importance of transparency when driving DE&I change
  • Decision making with DE&I
  • Fostering disability inclusion


In May, one of our Senior Employee Engagement Consultants, Asha Constanza attended the D&I Leaders Conference in London with one of McCann Synergy‘s long standing clients, Kerry Reid, Head of Comms & Learning at SkyUK.

Hosted by the illustrious Charlotte Sweeney OBE, the D&I Leaders event took place across two days and had speakers from some impressive brands including Netflix, TikTok, H&M, Johnson & Johnson, The LEGO Group and more.

Here we give you the low-down on some of Asha’s favourite sessions and the key takeaways.


The intersection of sustainability, purpose and inclusion

Jim Rottman – Global Head of Culture, Inclusion & Belonging at Volvo Cars.

About Volvo: Jim talked eloquently about Volvo – a business with 45k people, across 30 countries with the head office stationed in Switzerland. Volvo’s vision for the future is ambitious, they’re transforming to be 100% electric by 2030 and are striving to increase direct-to-consumer sales.

D&I at Volvo:

  • Volvo are aware that they have influence to change things in the world, and have more space to do this than even the government and they use their influence where possible.
  • To make the workplace more inclusive and welcoming, Volvo have evolved their language. For example: removing the word ‘diversity’ and replacing it with ‘belonging’. Small changes like this can have a big impact on company culture.
  • Their inclusion & belonging strategy has three pillars – purpose, sustainable, people mission. Purpose particularly caught Asha’s eye with messaging ‘Freedom to be’.
  • Volvo’s key brand message is, and always has been, around being safe. They have tied this safety messaging in with their inclusions and belonging strategy.
Key takeaway:
  • By incorporating leadership competencies in the third pillar (people mission) means that any leadership decisions and their impacts are looked at from an ethical and inclusive point of view. A deliberate move was made to combine ethical and inclusive decision making so that impact is considered not only for the individual but also for the team, the society and environment.


The importance of transparency and clear communications in driving meaningful change and progressing your I&D goals

Annie Wu – Global Head of D&I, H&M Group

About H&M Group: Annie was incredibly engaging and spoke passionately about H&M. They have 4000 stores, across 79 markets and 58 e-commerce markets.

  • D&I is a necessity to stay successful and relevant to customers and colleagues.
  • Transparency and communication boost their progress and keep them evolving.
  • It’s about ensuring accountability. At H&M Group they are committed to increasing the level of transparency since they believe it is key to driving meaningful change across their industry.
  • Externally H&M have included Inclusion in their annual report for the past 5/6 years.
  • Internally they have many different systems in place. For example: they’ve created a D&I dashboard, they empower local teams and they have a big focus on their employee survey and the voice of their employees to ensure transparency.
Key takeaway:
  • Change without transparency won’t work (or be successful!). H&M talk about ‘radical transparency’ – a powerful phrase that goes to show just how much focus H&M are putting on D&I.


L’Oréal Group’s commitment to tackling domestic violence

Margaret Johnston-Clarke – Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, L’Oréal Group

About L’Oréal: Margaret detailed how the beauty business has 87k people worldwide and 36 brands.

Margaret talked about:

  • Why organisations should raise awareness and tackle taboo subjects in the workplace
  • Raising awareness through research, external partnerships and collaboration
  • Developing policies and targeted support for line managers
  • Steps to creating a safe environment where employees can talk freely
  • L’Oréal has trained over 500k consumer and colleagues on the topic of domestic violence
Key takeaway:

Why should we care about domestic violence at work? 1 in 3 women will be a victim of domestic violence, 80% of this will be at home and out of these people, over 1/3 (37%) of domestic violence victims have first spoken up at work.


Fostering Disability Inclusion at Virgin Media O2

Shani Dhanda – D&I and Accessibility Lead, Virgin Media O2
Jeff Dodds – COO, Virgin Media O2

Disability is the largest diversity strand in the world and the only over-excluded group anyone can be part of at any time, but it remains the lowest prioritised on the overall DE&I agenda.

They both talked about:

  • How disability fear has led us to allow exclusion.
  • How to remove systemic barriers for disabled people.
  • There are two ways looking at disability – the medical model (cure the person) and the social model (design accessible spaces).
  • Disability as a term can be anything – permanent, temporary and situational. We’ve all been disabled at some point.
  • The Equality Act 2010 is out of touch as the legal definition of disability means that people are excluded because it states that a ‘substantial diagnosis’ is needed but in reality this isn’t needed, nor feasible.
  • Finding solutions for disabled people benefits everyone. It’s also the law!
  • 1 in 4 people are disabled with a spending potential of £274bn to the economy.
  • ‘The dropped kerb effect’ is the phenomenon of disability-friendly features being used and appreciated by a larger group than the people they were designed for.
  • Leaders seem to be nervous around the conversation of disability ‘it’s easier to say nothing’ – so need education and training.


‘If you care about it, educate yourself. You might get something wrong – it’s a journey that never ends. But talk about it otherwise nothing will ever change!’ – Jeff Dodds, COO Virgin Media O2

Key takeaway:

Businesses should be focussing on why disability is the right thing to do rather than the financial benefit – this HAS to be second. However, the second can be a way into the conversation and any conversation is a start!


Overcoming privilege denial to open up meaningful conversations around inclusion with leaders

Cassi Mecchi – Director of Inclusion for EMEA, Netflix

Cassi spoke about:

  • The importance of disentangling privilege from merit in the workplace.
  • How to move from denial, to empowerment, to allyship.
  • Leaders need to ask themselves ‘was your success down to luck, or your skills?’ as this breaks down the beginning of the conversation around privilege.
  • How to move from denial to allyship:
    • Encourage reflection of one’s own and peers.
    • Offer psychological safe spaces for people from dominant groups to explore their identities and concerns through things like 121 coaching.
    • Remind people of the difference they can make – no matter where they are.
    • Foster connections and kinship across individuals and allow spaces for people to connect.
  • Read Cassi’s post on Linkedin on this very topic
Key takeaway:

Privilege isn’t a bad word


D&I learning for all – How The LEGO Group is engaging their non-office based employees in D&I learning

Camilla Winther – D&I Learning Lead, The LEGO group

About LEGO: The LEGO group has 27k people across 48 countries, with 5 production sites. Their vision is to ‘be a global force through learning through play’.

LEGO have three pillars – BE, DO, SAY

  • BE – who we want to be.
  • DO – what we want to do.
  • SAY – what we say to colleagues and customers. 
Key takeaway:

The best way The LEGO Group found to localise D&I learning was to create working groups in stores and factories and ask them ‘How do you want this to work?’ – LEGO then created an 8-month programme – 1 x topic per month – with training and recommended reading materials.


Do you need an ally when it comes to D&I?

D&I isn’t a trend or a fad, it’s paramount to helping your business thrive. It needs to be built into everything your business and employees do. After all, diverse thinking gives diverse answers. If you’re thinking about how to improve D&I in your workplace, get in touch with our Managing Director Gemma McGrattan Gemma.mcgrattan@mccannsynergy.com and start your company down the path to a more diverse and more inclusive workforce. 


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