CorpComms Awards

Best diversity and inclusion initiative

Winner 2021
Calling Time on Racism
Greene King

In June, Greene King unveiled Calling Time on Racism, a plan setting out four long-term commitments to drive cultural change in the way that the pub operator recruits and develops its people and to ensure that its venues are welcoming to all.

Its senior leadership has committed to lead a journey of racial inclusion and representation across the organisation; to establish and embed a sustainable culture of inclusion; to enhance the customer experience and leverage the Greene King brand and assets to promote racial inclusion and drive entrepreneurial opportunities for those who experience racism; and to ensure community activities reflect the diversity of the locality.

Calling Time on Racism was published 12 months after the Daily Telegraph reported that Greene King’s founder Benjamin Greene had benefited from slavery and had also argued against its abolition.

The company clearly communicated, both internally and externally, that its founder’s actions were inexcusable and abhorrent. While unable to change history, Greene King was determined to use its position as an employer of 40,000 people to affect how it operates both now and in the future.

It embarked on a two-pronged approach, comprising short-term actions to highlight its commitment to tackling racism and promote diversity and inclusion and a long-term strategy.

In the short-term, Greene King committed to ‘make a substantial investment to benefit the BAME community and support our race diversity in the business’, appointed consultants C&E Advisory to support its long-term strategy and assist with immediate actions and pledged a new five-year agreement with the Prince’s Trust, with which it had a long-standing relationship.

Greene King has increased funding to the Prince’s Trust by a third and invested in projects to raise the percentage of young people from BAME backgrounds that it employs through the charity from 24 per cent to 40 per cent in five years – creating 1,000 job opportunities.

It also announced new partnerships with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, to educate visitors about the historic transatlantic slave trade, and the Slave Free Alliance, supporting work to eradicate modern day slavery.

A strong submission demonstrating positive and meaningful action from a difficult starting point

Internally, it launched a new employee-led race diversity group, Unity, which is sponsored by a member of the executive board, who attends meetings and acts as liaison. A race diversity working group, which meets monthly, was also established, which is attended by Greene King’s chief executive Nick Mackenzie, corporate affairs director Greg Sage and other board directors.

Mackenzie also joined the advisory board of Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure’s Inclusive Leadership Programme, and chaired a roundtable to hear from stakeholders, including charities, campaigners and industry representatives, to help shape its long-term plans.

The newspaper revelation also prompted Greene King to tackle head on the contentious issue of pub names with racist connotations. Four pubs were identified – three of which were called The Black Boy. Greene King engaged with their local communities about the issue and held public votes to select new names.

The judges were impressed by the way in which Greene King drew upon the negative coverage as a ‘catalyst for change’, and by the speed of response. They concluded: ‘A strong submission demonstrating positive and meaningful action from a difficult starting point. There’s an element of putting your money where your mouth is with The Prince’s Trust and International Slavery Museum partnerships. The pub name issue shows a welcome willingness to get into contentious territory, and engaging the local community is a good way of mitigating this being seen as corporate risk management.’