Food for thought: How brand leaders are building diversity and inclusion into team approach

Marketing and business leaders from Unilever, SilverChef, Intrepid Travel and Bayer Australia share their efforts to foster diverse, inclusive cultures and brand strategies

In a recent study conducted by Indeed, 80 per cent of Australians surveyed expressed the desire to work for companies that promote diversity and inclusion (D&I).

The 1500-strong consumer survey showed just shy of half of us feel we’re unable to bring our true selves to work, while just over half of us believe our organisations have a grasp right now on what it means to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace culture.

Across the marketing fraternity, conversations about showcasing diversity and inclusion externally are certainly flourishing. But there’s no doubt having the same approach internally goes hand-in-hand.

In our latest food for thought piece, CMO asked marketing and brand leaders from four leading Australian organisations in very different sectors to share what steps they are taking to promote D&I across their organisations today.

Nicky Sparshott

CEO, Unilever Australia and New Zealand

As a leader, achieving a true space of belonging within our business and across our value chain is not about meeting quotas or similar metrics. It’s about creating a culture where different perspectives are not only appreciated but embraced; where the inconvenient truths are able to be surfaced through deep curiosity, more active listening, and a genuine collaboration.

We know we cannot be an inclusive organisation unless we ensure we have created the conditions and the culture for all people to thrive. Imagine all the great capability, intellect and inspiration we are missing out on if we don’t.

Nicky SparshottCredit: Unilever
Nicky Sparshott


At Unilever as a whole, we want to see a society where everyone is treated equally, and where purposeful work creates a fairer, more socially inclusive world.

We’ve identified four strategic priorities for our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy: Gender, race and ethnicity, people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ communities. We’ve also set ourselves clear objectives that will help us tackle inequality and drive inclusion.  At the end of the day, it is the power of diversity, equity and inclusion coming together in a meaningful way that creates belonging. And that’s when the magic really happens.

In A/NZ, we are proud of the progress we have made to date, and also recognise it is a constant and evolving journey and there is much more to be done.

Just over half of our managers are women (53 per cent) in Australia and New Zealand, and we are a proud Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (2017-2020). We want to support our team members as they grow their families, which is why we now offer of our everyone 16 weeks' paid parental leave in the first year of their little one's life. This is irrespective of gender, or the amount of time they have been employed with Unilever. It is not defined by redundant ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer statuses.

Additionally, any employee undertaking fertility treatment is entitled to five days paid leave while going through the treatment. Any employee who has experienced pregnancy loss is entitled to 10 days paid leave in the 30 days following the event.

We also are proud of our Rainbow Tick certification in NZ, which recognises the workplace understanding, valuing and welcoming of sexual and gender diversity. Unilever brand, Ben & Jerry’s, rallied in support of marriage equality in the lead up to the 2017 postal survey on marriage equality in Australia, and we continue to be advocates in this space as an organisation.

This week, we announced our office bathroom signs would invite guests to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity, ensuring all people who use our facilities feel safe and comfortable to use the amenity of their choice.

Through the framework of a Reconciliation Action Plan, we look forward to identifying new ways to contribute to and formalise our commitment to the intergenerational upward mobility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There is so much we can learn from First Nation’s People. We have also created our first-ever global employee resource group for people with a disability and their allies, called Enable@Unilever. With one in five Australians having a disability, we have launched programs that enable adjustments to be made to accommodate all people including an internship program dedicated to recruiting young talent with disabilities.

More broadly, Unilever has also announced our ‘Act 2 Unstereotype’ commitment, which sees us make real, structural changes to our entire marketing process. This includes Provoking inclusive thinking across the full end-to-end marketing process; ensuring an Unstereotype charter for every Unilever brand that outlines the DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) commitments the brand will deliver through its marketing; and increased representation of people from diverse groups on screen and behind the camera.

This is in addition to the work we are doing as part of the newly launched UN Australian Advertising Alliance, the decision to remove the word ‘normal’ from our packaging. Unilever also has a commitment to spend €2 billion (AU$1.9 billion) annually with suppliers owned and led by people from under-represented groups as part of our Positive Beauty strategy.

A diverse, equal and inclusive business makes us, and society, stronger. It unlocks growth by bringing us closer to our consumers who come from all walks of life. It brings varied thinking and experiences and therefore boosts financial performance, reputation, innovation and team motivation.

Shaden Mohamed

Chief customer officer, SilverChef

When I think about the true meaning of diversity, it’s the recognition that every person – irrespective of biology, experience, education and behavioural preference – deserves to have access to the same opportunities and be treated with respect. Inclusion is simply the by-product of this thinking and manifests itself in the workplace through everyday interactions and activities.

I’m lucky to be leading a function that requires an eclectic mixture of skillsets and experience, from all areas of marketing and product to customer sales and service. I compare this to other functions where the skillset is a little more concentrated and/or similar across roles, making it more of a challenge to ensure diversity is front and centre. Information technology, as an example, lacks female representation because of the challenges with female participation in STEM generally, therefore resulting in a smaller pool of females with which to attract to organisations.

Shaden MohamedCredit: SilverChef
Shaden Mohamed


I have this wonderful opportunity to promote diversity in several ways. First and foremost it’s by ensuring recruitment of team members is deliberately free of bias. Candidates are screened without prejudice, interviewed by both the hiring manager and members outside of that function for greater impartiality. Candidates are also invited to share their requirements for the workplace, including flexible working arrangements or training for gaps in skill over the short term.

Once a candidate has entered our environment, inclusion plays a vital role in them achieving success. It starts with a robust onboarding program, tailored to ensure every new member understands how our business works in the first 2-3 weeks. Their individual development needs are identified, and programs are put into place to help them achieve their goals.

In addition, SilverChef has a range of programs including opportunities to participate in strategic projects, secondments into other departments and time allocation to other areas of the business, with support from a mentor. Ideas from all corners of the workplace reach c-suite via an independent committee, who capture and surface submissions by staff.

Diversity & Inclusion is not a ‘topic’ at SilverChef, it is a way of being. We operate every single day in a manner that ensures our people, customers and broader community are supported. We are a recognised B Corp because of this and the way in which we serve underserved communities.

Customers are offered a range of funding solutions that would otherwise not be accessible via other financiers. Our core product, Rent-Try-Buy, allows customers an ‘out’ if their business venture fails. They can return the equipment SilverChef funded and minimise losses that would otherwise be incurred if they were to purchase that equipment all upfront. Conversely, that same product allows a customer to upgrade should their business suddenly expand, ensuring they have the right equipment to meet demand (without incurring losses on models that are no longer fit for purpose). The finance industry is not positioned or modelled that way, which makes SilverChef truly unique.

As an Australian woman of colour, who visibly identifies as a Muslim, my journey has been filled with both adversity and good fortune. I recognise I could have become a statistic, had I at any point in time thrown in the towel. And while participating in Diversity & Inclusion dialogue is my passion, it is also my duty to ensure I continue to drive change, where I can, so that others who would otherwise be disadvantaged have a fighting chance of success.

Nicky Dolman

Head of Nutritionals and Digestive Health, Consumer Health, Bayer Australia 

Read more: Aurora Expeditions appoints first CMO

Bayer Australia is one of the founding members of the Australian Chapter of the Unstereotype Alliance, launched in November 2021. This commitment will see us take steps towards eliminating stereotypes in advertising and media content across the country. 

Nicky DolmanCredit: Bayer Australia
Nicky Dolman


The concept is not new to us at Bayer. Ensuring diverse, real representation in our advertising and brand communications has become increasingly important, and we’re proud to stand on the side of inclusion. As a company with industry leading brands, we know that with great power also comes great responsibility. And as a company operating in the healthcare space, we also know a healthy life appears in many different forms.  

Marketing has tremendous power to shift the way the world understands and talks about health and society. As a leader in this space, we’re committed to using creativity to inspire people to take control of their everyday health.

We believe we owe it to our consumers, customers, the communities we serve and our employees to help all people feel seen and represented. One example of how we’re acting on this at the brand level is through our Elevit pre-conception and pregnancy multivitamin range, where we’ve committed to showcasing and supporting every pregnancy journey through our ‘Every Beginning’ brand purpose. This highlights diversity in race, age, gender, sexual orientation, relationship status and more via real-life pregnancy journeys featured in our brand communications. 

Within Bayer, our people are just as diverse as the customers and communities we serve. Inclusion and diversity is something our people truly embrace and rally behind because we know the collective sum of our individual differences, life experiences, unique capabilities and self-expression shape our culture, and we recognise it as key for our ongoing success. 

Australia is one of the most diverse and inclusive countries in the world, and Bayer is proud to help Australians regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation feel represented and included.

Natalie Placko

General manager global brand strategy, Intrepid Travel

Intrepid strives to be the best travel company for the world. We’ve really taken that to heart, especially since becoming the world’s largest travel B Corp in 2018, and we’ve recognised we cannot be the best travel company for the world without being a voice for all of the people in it.

Our style of travel is about connecting different cultures around the world. Travelling at its core is about going beyond borders to better understand, experience and celebrate other perspectives and ways of life. So, for Intrepid Travel, DEI is really about ensuring that the cultural exchange and connection that is fostered on our trips, is also present at all layers of our business, internally and externally.

Natalie PlackoCredit: Intrepid Group
Natalie Placko


In the travel industry, there are a lot of barriers and systemic inequalities that exist. For us we are really focusing on three core areas: Product, promotion and people. Product is about how can we continue to build trips and ensure our product is developed through a diverse lens and in a way that is adding value to communities we visit vs. extracting from them. Promotion encompasses our marketing inclusive of diverse travellers, of all race, genders, orientation, beliefs, body types and more. People is about how can we create a more diverse and equitable workforce around the world.

Two things we have just rolled out emphasis this approach: Our Ethical Marketing Policy and our Ethical Marketing Guidelines. The simplest way to break this down is that the policy is the words, and the guidelines are the work.

The Ethical Marketing Policy outlines five commitments that govern how we market in a more ethical and inclusive way: Diversity, equity and inclusion; openness and transparency; reject neocolonialism; sense of belonging; and ethical digital marketing.

The guidelines then inform how we deliver on these commitments. It’s the work. For each of these five commitments, we worked with external consultants to map out three things:

  • How Intrepid could action this commitment?
  • How Intrepid could measure this commitment?
  • What tools Intrepid marketers would need to deliver on this commitment?

Commitments and policies not coupled with tangible actions and measurements can often times be seen as performative or impact-washing. When we undertook the work to create our ethical marketing policy, we thought to ourselves: “How we will we know in 12-months from now whether we’ve been successful in making our marketing more inclusive?” This is why we devised clear measurements – 23 measurements to be exact. This will be reported annually as part of our Integrated Report.  

Creating allyship and improving representation of BIPOC (Black Indigenous People Of Colour) travellers

  • 50% (at least) of all content creators hired by Intrepid must identify as BIPOC creators
  • 5 global partnerships per year with BIPOC-owned travel organisations
  • 50% (at least) of blog stories must be voiced by BIPOC travellers
  • 25% (at least) of Intrepid's sponsorship budget annually goes to BIPOC events + community initiatives
  • 20% (at least) of content creators hired (including talent, influencers, bloggers, production team) by Intrepid must be from the Black travel community. 

Creating allyship and improving representation of the plus-size community

  • 10% of content creators hired (including talent, influencers, bloggers, production team) by Intrepid must be from the plus-size travel community
  • 20 photos of plus size travellers will be shared on social media each year
  • 5 pieces of evergreen size-inclusive content (authored by plus-size and fat-positive writers) shared two times per year, updated annually.

Creating allyship and improving representation of the LGBTQIA+ community

  • 10% (at least) of content creators hired (including talent, influencers, bloggers, production team) by Intrepid must be from the LGBTQIA+ travel community
  • 5 pieces of evergreen LGBTQIA+ inclusive content (authored by LGBTQIA+ writers) shared two times per year, updated annually
  • 10 stories published on The Journal (Intrepid’s blog) each year authored by LGTQIA+ writers (not necessarily about the LGBTQIA+ experience).
  •  

Creating allyship and improving representation of the Indigenous community

  • 10% of content creators hired (including talent, influencers, bloggers, production team) by Intrepid will be Indigenous creators
  • 10 social media posts each year that amplify stories of Indigenous communities
  • 5 stories published on the blog centred around truth telling of the impact that colonisation has made on Indigenous people historically and contemporarily. 

Openness & transparency

  • 4 public impact reports (published quarterly on our blog and social) that transparently look at our DEI and climate actions
  • 1 climate progress report (updated bi-annually) that transparently looks at our goal to reduce global emissions in line with a 1.5°C future by 2030
  • 1 integrated report (published annually) to provide full transparency on our business (including the ethical marketing guideline commitments). 

Rejecting neocolonialism

  • 100% of internal image library assets do not portray neo-colonialism (no portrayal of saviorism, photo subjects have a sense of agency)
  • 100% removal of the word “colonial” as a positive adjective and descriptor in trips, blogs and social captions
  • 20% of first-person social media stories told through the community or host lens. 

Digital marketing

  • 100% compliance with Google’s webmaster guidelines through an annual audit
  • 100% regional data usage and privacy compliance, specifically in our key source markets, including GDPR in Europe, CCPA in the United States, CASL in Canada and APP in Australia
  • 48-hour response time (or less) for any customer query regarding data or security.

We know D&I is about organisational change and system change, not surface change. For us, the diversity of our marketing can only take us as far as the diversity of our teams and our product.

In the travel industry, there are a lot of barriers and systemic inequalities that exist. So we are focusing on three core areas: Product, promotion and people.

  • Product: How can we continue to build trips and ensure our product is developed through a diverse lens and in a way that is adding value to communities we visit versus extracting from them.
  • Promotion: How is our marketing inclusive of diverse travellers, of all race, genders, orientation, beliefs, body types and more.
  • People: How can we create a more diverse and equitable workforce around the world.

Don’t miss out on the wealth of insight and content provided by CMO A/NZ and sign up to our weekly CMO Digest newsletters and information services here.  

You can also follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page        

 

 

 


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