Bunzl is committed to playing its role in creating a fairer, more equitable society, and the wellbeing and safety of Bunzl’s people is a top priority.
Against this backdrop we’ve launched a number of powerful new initiatives worldwide including the ‘Inspiring Ethnicity in Bunzl’ Group in the UK & Ireland which has potential to drive meaningful transformation in Bunzl. In this article two members of this group have provided some detail on how being part of this initiative is having a powerful impact on their lives.
‘The killing of George Floyd and the worldwide movement calling for greater racial and ethnic justice was my motivation to help drive change. I felt Bunzl should be doing something and so, a little hesitantly because I didn’t want to be seen as a trouble maker, I approached senior staff. My hesitation was unfounded as the response was resoundingly positive. So the ‘Inspiring Ethnicity in Bunzl’ (IEIB) Group in the UK & Ireland was founded.
Initiatives are increasing. We’ve put together an activities calendar where we will celebrate a diverse range of events. We’ve also teamed up with the ‘Inspiring Women in Bunzl’ group and will be undertaking a series of events during ‘Inclusion Week’, a celebration of inclusion in the workplace, held in late September. I’m excited about that. However, it’s the ‘Safe Space’ sessions where we have the opportunity to sit down with Senior Leadership teams, including the Executive Committee of Bunzl plc, which have really resonated. The feedback has been so positive. I’ve shared many examples of racism and discrimination I’ve experienced. Ridiculous, but ultimately demeaning things like security guards following me around shops. I’ve even had a car salesman question me numerous times about whether I could afford a car I was interested in buying. I think these stories –recognising that this has been an integral part of my lives experience – took some people aback, but they’ve all been great and really supportive. I’ve also learned a lot from them as well. We’re all on a learning journey and I’ve met some really great people, both within IEIB Group and across Bunzl as a whole.
Ultimately, the buy-in from senior leaders will push the agenda forward and possibly most importantly drive greater equality: not to give people from ethnic backgrounds a head start, but to create an environment where there is a level playing field. The positive feedback from Bunzl’s Chief Executive Officer Frank van Zanten and his team is a great place to start and hopefully, will cascade through Bunzl. Eventually, it would be great to see someone employed to drive the ethnicity and equality agenda in Bunzl UK & Ireland.’
Matt Hall Sales Manager, Woodway UK & Ireland
‘In November 2020, my manager asked if I would like to be part of the ‘Inspiring Ethnicity in Bunzl’ (IEIB) Group. To be honest, I was a little reluctant, fearing it could be a tick box exercise. My fears were unfounded as IEIB has turned out to be one of the most important activities that I have been involved with in my six years working for Bunzl.
There are numerous reasons the IEIB Group has become important to me, but possibly the most profound has been the ‘Safe Space’ sessions, there the IEIB Group meets with Senior Leaders across Bunzl and we share experiences of how racism and discrimination have impacted our lives. For example, I started a discussion about how something as simple as my name can have repercussions. Shezmin is an obvious ethnic name. My younger sister is called Sarah (an obvious western name) and we have followed similar career paths in the hospitality sector. In our 20’s and applying for similar jobs, Sarah would get more interviews than me. It seems like such a small thing, but at that stage it influence my career prospects and my sense of confidence. We also openly debate the influence of labels such as a minority, immigrant, expat and white privilege which has been really educational and thought provoking.
My self-confidence is something that has flourished since I joined the IEIB Group. Don’t get me wrong, the sessions can be uncomfortable as the desire for honest means we are, on occasion, emotionally exposing ourselves. Nonetheless, we now have the opportunity to discuss racism and aspects of our lives that might have previously been swept under the carpet. It builds trust and empathy and I really feel that I am part of a community.’
In 2009, I founded a charity called Nia Children’s Foundation to provide food and educational support to children in my father’s hometown in Kenya. Nia is a Swahili word meaning life’s purpose and the voluntary work I do for Nia has become my life’s purpose. But make no mistake, the lessons I am learning in IEIB Group and the support and inspiration I receive have given me renewed vigour to take the charity to greater places and have a real impact on the lives of others.’
Shezmin Madhani, Senior National Account Manager,
Bunzl Catering Supplies UK & Ireland