Make It Last: Our Self-Assessment on Racism
A message from Liberty's CEO, Adil M KhanRead more
As the world comes together to fight racism, Liberty is looking at how we can make the moment and the momentum last. Beyond solidarity, we need to confront our own actions and make changes that have a meaningful and long-term impact.
What is our bias to action on racism? How do we honestly look in the mirror and say that we are as committed and as effective on fighting racism as we are on the other causes we have embraced and are active on (fighting slavery, homelessness and gender inequality). We want to take a critical view of ourselves and how specifically we represent black and other ethnic minorities in our staff and to our customers.
The Liberty store is a diverse place. We have staff of every colour, every nation, every sexual orientation; our diversity is our strength as we seek to meet the needs of all of our customers. But we are more than a store; and as I look at our offices, at the brands we sell, at what we do to pro-actively tackle inequality through opportunity – we fall short.
We pride ourselves on finding and telling stories - stories of crafts, of taste, of unique people with unusual talents. But we have been too narrow in our focus. We have not done enough to amplify the voices of people of colour.
We put the call out to all our staff worldwide about what they expect and demand right now and had responses from those who self-select as BAME, as well as our LGBT and non-BAME employees who also care passionately about the topic. They have posed for us five key questions:
1. Do we have enough brands that represent the needs of our BAME customers, and how can we give more opportunities to minority entrepreneurs?
2. Is our leadership team diverse enough and what can we do to ensure that BAME employees are well represented in management roles?
3. Are we committed to training and employee engagement on diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias and implementing zero tolerance policies on racism?
4. What can we do at the recruiting stage to ensure more opportunities for black people, particularly in our design roles?
5. Can we form a committee of BAME employees at Liberty to provide representation and a platform for change?
Here are our first answers – warts and all:
We are not sufficient either in stocking brands dedicated to BAME customers nor in giving opportunities to BAME entrepreneurs. We will begin adding brands and giving BAME entrepreneurs more opportunity, especially in the beauty sector. Our initial goal is to add at least one of these brands every month for the next year.
There is no limit to diversity, but our leadership team has balance: Of the 12 directors, half are female. We have two members that identify as BAME, at least one LGBT. The age range is between 32 and 66. Two members are non-British. We don’t formally track racial diversity across the organisation – we will from now on. As previously mentioned, while our store has a very diverse population, our offices are far from representative.
We do have robust equality policies, and 100% of employees have been trained in the past 12 months on diversity and inclusion – which is now a requirement pre-employment. This is not enough, we are focusing next on bias – which is insidious, and training will again be mandatory for all employees. We believe we have much work to do in this area.
At recruiting stage, we see a problem with too few minority candidates graduating from top design schools. We believe we can make a difference by investing and sponsoring at undergraduate level and then filling positions when we have them. We will also be using our creative channels and to work with black creatives and models to better represent.
To this end we can and will form a Diversity Executive Committee that will be the voice and the source of ideas to ensure diversity is influential in how we run the company and the brands we select.
Liberty is committed to working with its Diversity Executive Committee and leadership team to create a list of actions with a timeline that we as a business can be held accountable for.
Liberty is a small company, but we punch above our weight because we have a long history, are respected and, in many cases, loved. We are now going to be deliberate in giving more opportunities to all. We can of course contribute to the moment in time, but the bigger quest is making the moment last; with changes that stick for our next 145 years, and make us a better company.