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12/05/2022

How Mars and Constellation Brands are Advancing DEI

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Five ways to start moving the needle and make DEI more than a marketing initiative

Consumers increasingly want to know that the brands they buy from are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In fact, 30% of consumers consider a brand’s commitment to DEI when deciding what to buy, and younger generations admit they will pay more for products from brands with strong DEI commitments. 

However, it is not just consumer preferences brands must consider. In an environment of talent scarcity, a commitment to DEI remains crucial to attracting and retaining top talent at all levels, including executives. 

Women alone make up more than half of the U.S. population and control or influence 85% of consumer spending. Yet, in the consumer staples food segment, on average women and minorities only made up 35% of board-level positions in 2020. 

Industry efforts to increase diversity

To truly understand, reach, and engage your brand’s diverse audience—and therefore grow your organization—requires an equally diverse leadership team. Studies show the more diverse an executive team is, the higher likelihood that the company will outperform its competition.

The only way companies can continue to develop truly authentic brand voices that resonate with all consumers is by ensuring those same diverse perspectives influence decision-making and are working and collaborating with the brands themselves. 

Over the last few years, Constellation Brands has improved representation at the executive and board levels, which are now 50% and 40% diverse, respectively.

Mars also aspires to bring gender equity to its global leadership teams. Currently, 46% of Mars’ leadership teams are gender-balanced. In 2022, Mars saw the greatest progress among the most gender-imbalanced teams by addressing the inequity in talent pipelines, looking at hiring panels, and refocusing on development programs. 

Five ways to embrace DEI

Mars and Constellation brands are just two examples of companies in the food and beverage industry that are leading the way in advancing DEI. Companies looking to do the same can start with these five steps: 

Drive changes from the most senior levels

Corporate boards and executive teams must elevate the topic of DEI and be the first to make necessary changes. Senior leaders need to continue to drive commitment through active participation and accountability, not just for themselves but also for their teams. 

Examine hiring practices

Hiring teams should consider qualities, experiences, and perspectives that are an addition to the group. It’s the difference between thinking expansively and narrowly. Consider where you traditionally draw your talent from and find opportunities to diversify.

A similar examination of company benefits may reveal opportunities for change. If your current benefit structure is turning away diverse candidates, it’s time to reevaluate. Committing to gender pay parity and continuing to advance responsible parental leave policies are two important places to start.

Demonstrate your commitment outwardly 

It’s not enough to share a commitment to DEI internally – organizations must also communicate it outwardly to the public. 

For example, Dove Chocolate has a long-standing collaboration with CARE to empower female cocoa farmers in West Africa. Skittles has shown up strong on LGBTQ+ issues. Constellation Brands engages in initiatives that support communities of color and female founders.

Foster a culture that embraces DEI

Once leadership is committed to advancing DEI, it’s time to invest in shaping an entire company culture of inclusion. 

Communication and dialogue are key to ensuring teams are aware and on-board. Everyone should feel empowered to speak up about concerns and share ideas for improvement. Cultivating a culture where everyone feels valued, heard, and respected empowers employees and ultimately helps companies find mutual success together.

Listen and gather feedback 

What Mars has found most impactful throughout its DEI journey is listening. The organization hosted town halls and listening campaigns, engaged Associate Resource Groups, conducted focus groups, and held small-group discussions. Last year, the brand asked one question through their #HereToBeHeard campaign: What needs to change for more women to reach their full potential? 10,000 women from 88 countries responded with calls for change. The simple act of listening has informed a roadmap for gender action in Mars’ workplaces, supply chains, and marketing.

A duty and responsibility to reflect the consumers we serve

Positive change is taking place across the industry. From diversity in marketing and advertising campaigns to adopting inclusive hiring practices and taking a stand on DEI issues, progress is evident. But no organization is perfect. It’s no longer enough to say your organization supports DEI. You must prove it, show it, and live it — not only for the sake of your people but for the health of your company.

– Kris Carey, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Constellation Brands

– Lisa Manley, Vice President, Sustainability, Mars

– Ryan Whitacre, Partner, Bridge Partners

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