A survey by Gartner reveals that nearly half of supply chain organizations have formal diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) objectives, rising year-over-year from 27% in 2022 to 49% in 2023 – yet 43% report higher attrition rates among underrepresented talent.

As part of Gartner’s 2023 Supply Chain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Survey – conducted between September and October 2023 – 314 North American and European supply chain professionals with active involvement in their organizations DEI initiatives were questioned. Each organization has at least $250 million in annual revenues.

According to the results, the percentage of full-time employees of an underrepresented race or ethnicity increased from 32% in 2022 to 48% in 2023, and the average representation of talent of underrepresented races and ethnicities is now 1.5 times higher than it was in 2022.

Broader business objectives are said to tie into improvements in DEI inclusion. 68% of respondents claimed to introduce either formal or general objectives to attract new talent, with 64% aiming to engage and keep new employees.

58% sought to improve their business performance, 48% to attract customers, 44% to reflect and support local communities, and 40% to attract investors.

Another reason for the rise in representation was revealed as an increasing emphasis in actual DEI initiatives within supply chain organizations. Gartner refers to this as the “say-do-gap”, in which companies express their intentions but don’t enforce them with action; this was exemplified by the 2022 statistics, in which 75% of supply chain organizations claimed to desire some form of diversity yet only 40% had implemented specific DEI project or initiatives.

In 2023, learning and development (L&D), benefits, employee engagement, and recruitment were listed as the top four DEI initiatives that companies were investing in. Employee engagement and L&D were said to be the most effective – differing from past surveys, in which inclusive leadership and recruitment took the top spots.

The survey’s top-line findings are said to demonstrate progress when it comes to diversity efforts. However, 43% of respondents stated that their attrition rates were ‘somewhat or significantly’ higher compared to their majority workforce; most of these employees left to seek out a change in career.

Gartner highlights the need for talent pipelines to be assessed and reworked to keep new employees on board. It is recommended that chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) evaluate and work to rectify the root causes of their attrition rates.

“Supply chain organizations may have been expected to take a step back in pursuing DEI objectives in light of increased scrutiny and economic pressures,” said Dana Stiffler, distinguished analyst and VP in Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice. “Our data instead showed strong gains, with a steep increase in representation of underrepresented races and ethnicities at every level of the supply chain. The key driver of these gains is an increase in accountability via formalized management goals.

“The recruitment focus of DEI initiatives is crucial, with a higher percentage of supply chain employees actively seeking a new job at the highest rate since 2021. The focus on engagement and retention is also well-placed with supply chain employees less likely than other professions to be highly engaged or have a high intent to stay. Their discretionary effort in mid-2023 was at its lowest point in the past two years.

“While nearly the same proportion of organizations focused on one or more aspects of DEI in 2023, we saw a much higher percentage of supply chain respondents working on specific DEI projects and initiatives with measurable outcomes, jumping from 40% to 73%. In 2023, the ‘say-do gap’ was reduced to nearly half of what it was in 2021; the connection between tangible action and improved DEI outcomes seems increasingly clear.”

Previously, Gartner’s Women in Supply Chain survey saw the number of women in C-level positions in supply chain organizations rise by 15% from 2021, reaching 19% in 2022. On the other hand, the total number of women in the supply chain workforce had gone down.

Since then, The Pipeline’s annual Women Count report has indicated that FTSE350 businesses in the packaging sector feature at least 40% women in their executive committees, but only one in five commercial roles on executive committees as a whole is held by a woman.

In packaging design itself, James Cropper previously cited social media and environmental consciousness as the biggest influences on branding and packaging colour trends, overtaking previous predictions that technology would be the top factor by 2029.

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