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Diversity & Inclusion

05 October 2021

Helen Richardson, Human Resources Director talks about her vision about diversity & inclusion at Renewi

The waste management industry, as you and I know it, is mostly known from its forefront: waste collection. And with around 90 % of frontline employees being male, the waste industry is perceived as a man's world.  Yet, fortunately, the waste industry is changing: both in operation and perception. Diversity Day is the perfect opportunity to emphasise this: there is plenty of opportunity for women in the ever changing and essential waste management industry!

Diversity is an asset

Fortunately, it is no longer a secret that diversity at work  is an asset for both businesses and their employees, in its capacity to foster innovation, creativity and empathy in ways that homogeneous environments seldom do. A diverse team with different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, views and experiences have more alternatives for a solution and ultimately arrive at a better solution, which helps an organisation to perform better and more flexibly.  It creates creativity, because the range of knowledge and skills is more diverse.

Diversity is a growth opportunity

Diversity is therefore much more than a nice-to-have, it is a growth opportunity for a company. Moreover, it has become the norm. Companies are a mirror of society, an amalgam of differences. Diversity and inclusion are, in addition to individual empowerment, a great responsibility for companies and organisations. Of course, it is so much more than a gender issue or a women's issue. But precisely because the waste management industry is traditionally a man's world, there is still a lot of margin for growth here. After all, our industry is currently in transition from a waste policy towards an environmentally driven product policy. A waste collector like Renewi, for example, is becoming a supplier of raw materials. Recycling is the engine of a circular economy, because here too - even in the short term - great progress can be made. After all, there are still many waste flows that are difficult to recycle and that require an innovative approach in addition to the right partnerships. Diversity and inclusion lead to a creative and innovative mindset. The 'I' of Renewi stands for Innovation and is one of the most important pillars. This innovation is nourished and driven by diversity and inclusion. The transition to a circular economy creates many new jobs. Ladies, it is time to stand up. Like no other, the waste management industry benefits from a feminine touch!

"As an employer, you cannot expect everyone to behave the same. Because it is precisely those differences that are needed to create a diverse and inclusive work environment."

Helen Richardson

Diversity is fantastic, but there can and should be differences!

Yet it takes careful nurturing and conscious orchestration to unleash the true potential of this invaluable asset. A women's quota, for example, only makes sense if successful women do not have to behave like successful men: that is not inclusion. As an employer, you cannot expect everyone to behave the same. Because it is precisely those differences that are needed to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. Diversity is a verb, it requires constant action and questioning of oneself as an organisation. It takes much more than a series of online workshops and a quarterly review. For diversity to work, it needs to operate from the bottom of the corporate hierarchy to the top: an integrated, comprehensive shift in corporate culture. Renewi, for example, is planning to introduce flexible shifts whereby (female) drivers can work on an interim basis (a few hours). Not only does this create jobs for part-time workers, but it also reduces the pressure on the 10-hour working day of our drivers.

Diversity is great, but there can and should be differences. Our people, no matter who they are, are our greatest asset. I am convinced that organisations can only grow and excel when they put the right person in the right place, averse to imposed quotas. Choosing the right people and their skills, that is what it should be about. Not about gender, origin, religion, sexual orientation or anything else. It is 2021. High time to move away from that.