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Why we need new thinking, ideas & people from outside the industry

March 4, 2020
By Ioni Doherty

The Embrace Difference Council‘s Leverage Difference – Inclusion lead Nicole Stanners, Marketing Director, Campari, discusses how the council is supporting Drinks Association members to develop and leverage inclusive leadership as a key driver for business growth.

When it comes to diversity and inclusion we can have all the policies and training in place, but unless senior leaders model and encourage inclusive leadership, all efforts will crumble says Nicole Stanners.

“While there is a moral obligation for inclusive leadership starting at the top, linking it to better business results is the ultimate goal,” she notes.

“By encouraging inclusive leadership and inclusive ways of working, everyone feels they can bring themselves to work and that their views are appreciated. It means we get the best out of people and teams, and this ultimately leads to better business results…this is where the leverage comes from in our vision.” 

As leader of the Leverage Difference workstream on the Embrace Difference Council, Nicole is committed to engaging senior leaders, and inviting them to learn and understand how inclusive a leader they are. She says that the best way to do that is for leaders to understand how they are seen by people in their organisation when it comes to inclusivity. 

“Support from leaders is essential. If leaders have a personal understanding and experience, we anticipate that they will support the Embrace Difference programs, evolve their own personal leadership style and then we will be able to accelerate more quickly,” she says.

Nicole works closely with Madelyn Ring (pictured above, left, with Nicole), leading the See Difference (Diversity) workstream, and this past year the two have made great progress to clearly define what it is that each workstream needs to achieve.

“See Difference focuses on best practice policies, procedures and training at a company level whereas Leverage Difference (Inclusion) is about personal leadership, in particular amongst senior and emerging leaders, and its effects on a company and industry,” she says.

Both workstreams are also very focused on consistent and visible measurement across the industry as that ultimately leads to accountability.

“So now that we have arrived at that point, the Leverage Difference workstream has a strategy, is already starting to deliver some tangible tools and to secure great commitment across the industry by working with the HRDs, the Drinks Association Board and the Embrace Difference Council as a whole,” she explains. “The industry will be seeing quite a bit from our workstream in the next few months.”

For Nicole, one of the greatest strengths and most attractive things about working in the drinks industry is how friendly it is. People move from business to business, there is plenty of networking and celebration is at the very core of what the drinks industry does. However, she cautions, this conviviality does come with some ‘watch outs’.

“When I moved from FMCG to alcohol nine years ago, I was immediately struck by how tight and friendly the industry is and how relationship driven it is. It is a unique position and one of the best things about it. But the watch out is that we should not confuse friendliness with inclusivity,” she says.

“Secondly, with so much networking in the industry, opinions can commonly become held as ‘truths’ by sheer osmosis. We have to ensure we source new thinking, ideas, people from outside the industry, especially with the headwinds we have around health, regulatory standards, and changing consumer habits and confidence.”

Nicole has been a part of the diversity and inclusion journey with the Drinks Association from the start, joining Women In Drinks when it originated in 2015, developing the Serendis Mentorship program and implementing diversity and inclusion policies at Campari where she is the Marketing Director.

Nicole has worked overseas for a significant period of her career and working in Asia proved a tremendous experience when it came to inclusive leadership. Leading a multicultural team of people who all engaged in culturally specific ways, Nicole’s sensitivity to the nuances of difference came to the fore.

“In Bangkok I became particularly mindful of cultural sensitivities and I had to adopt a leadership style that ensured everyone in that team felt listened to and therefore valued for their contribution,” she recalls.

With such considerable experience in the diversity and inclusion sphere, Nicole has seen great developments in the past few years:

“I am so impressed with the positive journey our industry has been on, but at the same time, now is the time for real change. I like to compare it to the marketing adoption curve. We have had awareness and consideration. Now we need adoption!”

It is a call to action for us all.

Pictured main: Madelyn Ring (left) and Nicole Stanners (right).