2020. It’s been a year to remember and forget. It started with damaging bushfires and floods the likes of which we have not experienced before and resulting in a devastating financial impact for many regional areas and partners of the drinks industry. Australia rallied to support the affected communities and many initiatives were brought to life by drinks companies in the wake of these disasters.
We were so fortunate to be able to host the Drinks Association’s International Women’s Day event with over 400 attending the lunch which was a great celebration and success.
And who could have known at that time that within two weeks, we would all be working remotely? It was at that moment that diversity, flexibility and inclusion naturally and urgently moved front and centre in people’s minds. These concepts were no longer adjunct workstreams. They became fully realised work practices.
We saw businesses throughout the industry put the health and wellbeing of their people at the heart of their day to day operations and strategies. And we saw people look beyond themselves to consider and enact how they could contribute, support and help others. ‘R.U.O.K?’ was not just a day, it was a battle cry and a daily mandate.
In an instant levelling of the playing field, we all had to quickly become comfortable seeing ourselves on screen as meetings, dinners, drinks and events morphed into a virtual world. Shorts and trackie dacks were de rigueur and we stocked up with toilet paper, rice and enough pasta to look after an army. Then, we settled in to “The New Norm” and mostly did OK. However, as social beasts, craving interaction and connection, we missed the simple office, café, kitchen and water cooler interactions.
Businesses woke up and paid close attention to how people work and where they work, measuring on task completion and output, rather than hours spent in the office. It has been culturally transformative. Trust in our teams had to increase and was mainly rewarded with continued commitment from employees, many of whom were grateful for their work and driven with a renewed sense of purpose to support consumer demand, sales teams who were literally grounded and on-premise partners who were locked down.
Company cultures and behaviours saw the best continue to adjust (don’t ever say ‘pivot’ again) and thrive. Businesses throughout the industry worked hard to keep their people engaged and motivated, simultaneously turning a keen eye to on-premise partners and field teams to see where support was needed and what they could offer. This outward facing focus has produced some amazing programs. We have seen our industry at its very best. Well done to all!
I believe we have all became a little bit more human as a result of this year. We are more closely connected and supportive of each other. The Zoom/Teams took us into people's lives and ‘private spaces’, helping us to better understand our team mates, to appreciate their diversity (as well as ours) and inviting us to be more inclusive.
All the while, the Embrace Difference Council continued to work hard in the background, although there were a lot of people juggling a lot of tasks. Firstly, we met our objective of delivering a gender diversity scorecard by which to measure ourselves as an industry and against the norms. We also delivered our first level toolkit aimed at assisting those organisation who want to start on their D&I journey but don’t know how. Policies, procedures and tools make it easy to just make the decision, set a start date and just to get on with it.
We are now working on more advanced toolkits to assist organisations who have started the journey but want to further embed D&I practices in their day to day operations, as we all do. The Council’s events obviously had to change (see didn’t use ‘pivot’!) and successfully hosted virtual events. Thank you all for your support and participation.
Looking ahead, we have made the decision that Embrace Difference events will remain virtual for at least the first half of 2021. The IWD Event will go ahead virtually on Friday, 5 March so save the date and watch this space for details!
The unpaid heroes of the Council continued to give their time and commitment throughout the year, determined to make a difference. I thank each and every one of them. The Council’s journey, like many businesses, has not been easy and we have lost some members along the way, for many reasons. Again, I thank you for everything you have done for the industry and wish you all the best for your futures.
We have also said goodbye to some of the Council SteerCo leaders and real drivers behind the workstreams. To Madelyn Ring, Nicole Stanners and Alan Ko you will be missed! The work you have achieved since the Councils inception almost two years ago has been amazing. Your passion, drive and energy have seen the DA Board embrace our agenda fully and advance the D&I agenda well beyond expectations. Thank you all.
Asahi’s Sandra Gibbs – a passionate and long-time supporter of diversity and inclusion - steps into the role leading the See Difference workstream and Lion’s Jeremy Turnham has stepped up to join Coca-Cola Amatil’s Danielle Beale as co-lead on the Create Difference workstream. Our great thanks to both of them.
As we look to bring this year to a close, the pandemic remains with us and we must remain vigilant and alert to it at all times. It has taught us many things about ourselves, our colleagues and our resilience. It has helped advance remote and flexible work practices, some of which will stay with us forever. Let’s remember these things and embrace them as we develop our new ways of working and interacting.
As we say goodbye to a true annus horribilis, let’s remember the good that has come from the situation and toast to a brighter, more inclusive and diverse future.
See you next year,
Chair, Embrace Difference Council