Council Chair Sandra Gibbs reflects on 2022

Council Chair Sandra Gibbs reflects on 2022

November 15, 2022
Frankie Harding

Sandra Gibbs, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Asahi Beverages, was appointed the Embrace Difference Council’s new Chair in February 2022, stepping into the position after leading the See Difference workstream to finalise all levels of the Toolkit through 2021.

A long-time champion for gender equity in the workplace and change, diversity and inclusivity, Sandra was thrilled to take on the position and continue to build on the great work achieved by her predecessor.

Over the past year, Sandra has focused on supporting the two workstreams to deliver the Drinks Association's five-year strategy; to ensure the industry becomes the equitable sector we are ambitious for it to be.

As 2022 draws to a close, we caught up with Sandra to celebrate the achievements of the Embrace Difference Council and its two workstreams – See Difference and Create Difference.

Q. What has been your focus in your first year as Chair?
Sandra: To continue the great work of the outgoing Chair and workstream leaders. We appointed two new workstream leaders: Sarah Abbot, Global Inclusion and Diversity Leader, Lion (See Difference) and Stephanie Shedden, National Business Manager, Endeavour Drinks, Campari, (Create Difference).

Along with more than 50 volunteers from across the drinks industry, we have brought this strategy to life by driving initiatives that support the Drinks Association’s vision to deepen awareness, promote advocacy and build practices that attract, develop and retain diverse industry talent.

Q. What progress has the industry made in improving diversity, inclusion and equity this year?

Sandra: We are now three years into a five-year strategy. The Drinks Association continuously reflects on our purpose and goals to ensure the agenda reflects the broader societal issues that matter. We view our approach to the strategy as a journey, and this year, we have broadened the ambition for diversity and inclusion beyond gender equity.

In November, we announced the newly formed Industry Resource Group (IRG): Pride in Drinks. Eight companies are currently represented in the group which will be the voice of LGBTQ+ employees and beyond. Its objective is to champion inclusion and diversity through education, advocacy and awareness so that everyone in the industry can be their most authentic self and it will complement the great work that the Embrace Difference Council has already achieved.

As our first IRG, it will also form the pilot group for hopefully many more IRGs to influence the council’s agenda and create connections on important DE&I areas within the drinks industry.

Q. What has the See Difference workstream been up to this year?
Sandra: The See Difference workstream focused this year on partnering with members that are yet to implement DE&I programs within their organisations. We met with these organisations, talked them through the Embrace Difference Scorecard data and Toolkit and considered how they are useful for their businesses and where they could start. It can feel overwhelming at the beginning but the Toolkit is a practical way to start things moving.

We also reviewed the Toolkit alongside member companies to consider how it could be made even more valuable and practically embedded within the workplace. The team is currently making some adaptations to ensure it becomes an even more valuable resource to companies wherever they might be on their DE&I journey.

Q. What has the Create Difference workstream achieved?
Sandra: The Create Difference workstream has done a wonderful job through 2022 as we returned to in-person events, opportunities for driving industry education and inspiration for diversity and inclusion.

The International Women’s Day event in March with Catherine McGregor presenting was a sell out event and we cannot wait to do it all again next March with the inspiring Dr Jana Pittman as our keynote speaker. The first woman to represent Australia in both a Summer and Winter Olympic games, she is now a practising doctor in the field of Women’s Health, undertaking a PhD in obstetrics at UNSW and is a mother of six, including twins born in March 2022.

The State Chapter events are also back in full swing and we have already hosted four events this year. They are a great way for the Council to make its presence felt on the ground in each state and to further broaden the awareness and adoption of inclusive practices within the industry.

Q: What are you looking forward to focussing on in 2023?
Sandra: We finished the year with a highly successful virtual strategy workshop attended by all Council representatives, which will inspire our thinking for 2023 and beyond. It provided the opportunity for attendees to share their stories, insights and learnings as the Embrace Difference Council looks to broaden its ideas with its focus extending out from gender diversity and inclusion, and encompassing race and cultural heritage, First Nations Australians, disability and age.

I’m excited to build this thinking into our evolving strategy and for us to return re-energised to deliver even more impactful work.

I’m also looking forward to the next iteration of the scorecard and survey. For the Embrace Difference Council, the scorecard gives a baseline understanding of where the industry is at and shows movement year on year. This helps inform the approach we need to take to ensure continuous progress. We will also expand the survey this year to ask questions which will help gather insights into other extremely relevant areas, such as ERGs, initiatives beyond gender and the introduction of a Reconciliation Action Plan.

We have made strong progress in 2022 to keep pace with the ever-evolving societal issues, but there is much still to be done.

Q. Any closing comments for the year?
Sandra: The Drinks Association strives to be a platform for change in our industry. It provides an opportunity for education and influence, but we need the continued support of our member companies to ignite action. We have made substantial progress in 2022 to keep pace with the ever-evolving societal issues, but much is still to be done.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who give up their time to participate on, and support, the Council and workstreams. We are all passionate individuals committed to driving meaningful change for our industry. We always welcome new members, so please reach out to your Board Member if you want to be a part of this inspiring and industry-changing work.

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