Pride is many important things, including a celebration of both uniqueness and freedom of expression. When it comes to those two in particular, there’s a lot businesses can do a lot better! At the end of the day, a working environment that doesn’t allow its people to be their true selves isn’t a healthy one, and it certainly won’t produce the best results.
I believe most businesses and business leaders out there want to support the LGBTQ+ community in their workforce. But it’s about a lot more than wanting to be supportive – words need to be followed up with action. The big question is how you kick off that action.
At Britvic, we decided – or more accurately, realised – a long time ago that the best way to create meaningful change for marginalised communities is to ask those communities how they’d like to be helped. This realisation soon led to the formation of our Belonging network.
The Belonging network is a series of volunteer employee-led diversity and inclusion action groups that put a spotlight on the viewpoints, perspectives and unique needs of our Britvic team members. Our LGBTQ+ community is represented by the fantastic B-Proud network.
Launched and chaired by my brilliant colleague, Tom Fiennes, B-Proud plays a hugely important role for us at Britvic – one that I’m very grateful for. It regularly covers very important topics and challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community both in and outside of work, it helps our colleagues who aren’t in the community to understand it better – in doing that it helps to work against unconscious bias against the LGBTQ+ community – and it simply helps people in our business feel heard, appreciated and accepted.
Since its launch, B-Proud has raised the profile of LGBTQ+ colleagues and causes with posters, videos and online resources, alongside virtual and in-person events. This Pride Month, its hard work has been recognised by Inclusive Companies who have shortlisted it for an Inclusive Award in the outstanding diversity network category.
B-Proud is able to be as influential and impactful as it is because it receives regular support and airtime at the executive level. That’s not something that should be celebrated – of course execs should be supportive of communities in their workforce – but I do want to make clear that creating that connection is hugely valuable.
As the official exec sponsor for the B-Proud network, I speak from experience here! My role is to represent B-Proud in the leadership team and make sure that the group’s experiences and feelings are properly aired on a regular basis. I have to say, I feel like we do a pretty good job of it.
For me, having been involved in B-Proud and seeing its amazing work from nearby, displaying the Pride flag at the front of our Britvic head office in the UK was a very symbolic moment that marked all they’ve achieved. Rather, all they’ve achieved to date – there’s plenty more to come!
Tom Fiennes recently told us that B-Proud has dramatically changed his level of confidence in the business, and I’m sure its other members would say something similar.
If the alternative is an environment that stops people from being themselves, that stops people from sharing their sexuality or identity with their colleagues in fear of a negative reaction impacting both their relationships and their career, why not choose an environment where people can thrive as themselves?
Giving B-Proud – and our many other volunteer-led groups – everything they need to succeed was and is a very easy decision for us, because there’s so much to be gained from seeing these groups succeed. A passionate group that’s able to make a real-world difference only inspires further action and new people wanting to be part of it, which is amazing to see.
Creating something similar in your business isn’t as hard as you may think. It just requires giving your support and attention to your colleagues in the LGBTQ+ community. The rest will follow.
Paul Graham is the Managing Director for Britvic in Great Britain, having held this position since 2012. Prior to Britvic, he worked in a range of commercial roles at both Mars Confectionery and United Biscuits. Paul’s involvement within the soft drinks industry led to him be elected as President of the British Soft Drinks Association in 2021. Paul holds a degree in Management Sciences from The University of Manchester.