Campbell CEO: Start with inclusion to create a more diverse environment & drive systemic change

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/SeventyFour
Source: Getty/SeventyFour

Related tags: diversity, Black Lives Matter, Campbell soup company, inclusion

The Campbell Soup Co. is flipping the script on “diversity and inclusion” to focus first on inclusion on the grounds that an inclusive environment will better attract and sustain diversity.

“We start with inclusion because what we really believe is if you’re going to have a systemic impact, you have to have systemic plans. Not unlike how you would tackle any other transformational initiative in your company, I believe if you don’t wire the same kind of approach to what we’re trying to accomplish in this area then you’re probably going to get a lot of the same results we’ve gotten historically,”​ Mark Clouse, CEO of The Campbell Soup Co., explained during the Consumer Brands Association most recent CPG Speaks webinar.

“The idea of inclusion coming first is really about wiring comprehensively a broad scope plan and strategy that will change culture that makes it conducive to attracting and retaining diversity,”​ he added.

Campbell is ensuring its inclusion and diversity efforts are systemically approached by ensuring every member of its leadership team owns the strategies and initiatives, and by bringing in Camille Pierce as senior vice president and chief culture officer in October 2020 to help “separate a little bit from some of the prior efforts that weren’t quite as effective.”

Clouse explained that Campbell’s approach this time “is not about setting targets. It’s about ensuring that our processes are leveling the playing field so that the there is transparency of how we hire or promote or plan succession or even how we run the business.”

For example, he noted that a barrier for creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace has been assumptions that potential talent will innately understand standard business processes, when this is not the case.

“One of the things that we found is sometimes the unwritten processes, or just the tribal knowledge of how you get things done in a company can really be a barrier to inclusiveness. And so, how do we make or demystify some of those standard business processes so that if you’re a new member of our organization, regardless of ethnicity or background, that you’ve got an understanding and access to the things that are going to help you be successful,”​ he explained.

Another barrier that Clouse said he is breaking down to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace is the idea that the corporate world and social issues are insulated from each other.

“I’ve had to unlearn what’s been 20 years of … corporate executive training on how to kind of keep at arm’s length social issues and where we stand on certain things,”​ he said.

He emphasized that while corporations can and should engage on social issues and social justice, there is a line between that and politics.

By taking a stand on social issues and social justice, Clouse said, companies can attract and maintain talent and investors.

“Our employees want to know where we stand on these things,”​ and “it is also great to see investors starting to ask me those questions,”​ he explained.

‘Pick and shovel work’

Making bold declarations about inclusion and diversity is easier than following through, which Clouse said requires “pick and shovel work to really ensure that it’s embedded and integrated.”

On this front, Campbell has laid out strategies around three pillars of capabilities & education, advocacy and accountability, which serve as a framework for metrics – not quotas – and outcomes that “are placed on a time continuum,”​ Clouse said.

And then, he added, Campbell “measures the heck out of them.”

He explained that every member of his leadership team has concrete goals and metrics that are reviewed monthly and during mid- and end-year reviews.

“We’ve got a scorecard and we share that scorecard with the entire organization at each of our quarterly townhalls,”​ Clouse said.

He explained the high level of transparency is necessary to rebuild trust because “there’s a lot of people at our company that have seen efforts in this area, and quite frankly, if not always, have been disappointed at times. And so, part of what we’re building here too is credibility and transparency which is at the heart of so many of the efforts around inclusion.”

This accountability and transparency is especially important for corporations as more power shifts to employees, who increasingly look for ownership and purpose through their work, Clouse said.

He explained as this dynamic evolves, companies need to communicate clearly and provide avenues for employees to be heard so that everyone can grown on this journey together.

“The voice of our teams has never been more powerful and important in helping us guide and stay true to the values of our companies,”​ he said. “We may not get it right every time, but we try to be thoughtful”​ and learn from experiences to ultimately create a more inclusive and diverse environment.

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