BP UK is to launch a diversity and inclusion (D&I) plan aimed at boosting the representation of minority groups within the company, including at senior levels. It also says it will report its ethnicity pay gap by 2022.
The plan also reflects what the company feels is its “obligation to improve society”. Currently, the new policy is being worked on, the company has stated, and many details are still to be decided.
A letter has been sent to all of BP’s UK employees from the company’s UK HR director Simon Ashley explaining the fuel giant’s ambition to improve inclusivity and tackle discrimination.
It stated: “We have listened to colleagues in the UK and around the world and have identified three areas for our focused action against racial injustice.”
The “areas” referred to were transparency, accountability and talent. In terms of transparency BP has committed to reporting on the company’s UK ethnicity pay gap annually from 2022, perhaps earlier and will regularly report progress internally and externally on progress in improving diversity.
Data collection was an important component of this: “We will continue our focus on ensuring we have access to robust ethnicity data for our people, which is gathered via voluntary self-identification,” said the company.
The letter set out the goal of increasing ethnic minority representation at senior levels (increasing from 10.2% to 15%) and across levels up to and including first level leaders (from 17.5% to 25%). At all levels of the company BP said it was looking for a “20% or greater uplift in black representation”. It added the company would work harder to tackle discrimination and unfairness in BP’s supply chain.
In terms of talent BP said it would, from January next year, intervene to ensure UK employees from ethnic minorities were able to develop and progress their careers at the firm. It would it said provide focused “development and progression interventions to support career progress for UK black employees and other underrepresented ethnic minorities (from January 2021)”.
BP said it would increase funding of UK organisations “working to strengthen the STEM education pipeline – focusing specifically on black talent and other underrepresented minorities (from January 2021)”. It will also focus more on growing black and other underrepresented ethnic minority talent via internships and partnerships with racially diverse UK institutions.
The letter concluded: “These are initial commitments. We are working on the details of this action plan to enable sustained and systematic change. As we progress we will continue to be guided by meritocracy, inclusivity and fairness. We will ensure our processes and decisions uphold those principles.
“We must do more than improve our company; we have an obligation to improve society as well. As such, we will increase our external advocacy efforts in support of racial equity and building the diversity of our talent pipeline.”
For Stuart Affleck, director of Pinsent Masons’ diversity and inclusion consultancy Brook Graham, BP’s move was “more than just a moral and ethical decision to do the ‘right thing’, it is a business imperative”.
He cited recent research by McKinsey (Diversity Wins: Why Inclusion Matters, May 2020) that showed how companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability and those organisations in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36%.
He said diversity and inclusion initiatives should always be closely linked to business goals and commercial outcomes, for example by leveraging diverse teams to drive greater innovation and provide diversity in consumer insights. Affleck added:
“The business case for D&I also extends to increasing employee engagement and fostering stronger interpersonal connections, all of which have become increasingly important as we navigate the post Covid-19 world with its hybrid model of virtual and in-person working environments.”
Chris Cook, head of employment and data protection at SA Law, spelled out why diversity made firms more effective. He said that where there was diversity “these individuals bring with them their own experiences and ideas allowing the workforce to be more flexible, versatile and an accurate representation of the outer society”.
He added that “for companies that are trying to become more inclusive, it is important to ensure that they explicitly state on job advertisements that the company is an equal opportunity employer. It is also necessary to ensure there are robust policies in place to deter any form of discrimination or harassment in the workforce, and that staff are suitably trained on their content.”