To realise the potential of our people

We are committed to creating a modern, inclusive, and diverse culture that focuses on the health, safety, and wellbeing of its employees. We have implemented several initiatives to improve employee engagement and development, including conducting surveys, offering training programs, and promoting leadership and talent development.

Health and safety culture

Our company’s health and safety goal is to achieve zero harm for all individuals impacted by our operations, including our employees, contractors and visitors. To realise this objective, we have established Vision Zero, a strategy emphasising leadership, engagement, safe work environments, processes and a shift towards developing a safety-oriented culture, behaviours and mindset.

Throughout 2023/24, our primary focus has been the continuous implementation of Vision Zero. Collaborating closely with our leadership team, we have strived to ensure broad employee involvement in safety discussions and to systematically mitigate operational risks.

Furthermore, we have reviewed and reintroduced our Group Health and Safety policy to reaffirm our dedication, clarify our vision and define roles and obligations. This policy acts as a foundational outline for the objectives we aim to accomplish and the conduct we anticipate from both ourselves and each other.

Wellbeing of our people 

Promoting the welfare of our workforce, we introduced a global health and wellbeing week this year, a bi-annual initiative designed to raise awareness and inspire individuals to achieve a harmonious work-life equilibrium. This event encompassed a comprehensive range of over 500 activities spanning all sites and divisions worldwide. Topics covered included nutrition, mental health, and physical exercise. The success of the week was evident in the post-event survey, where it received an outstanding rating. Moreover, most respondents expressed their intention to modify their lifestyles based on the week’s activities.

Health, Safety & Wellbeing Week 2024
Health, Safety & Wellbeing Week 2024

Engaging our employees 

Labour markets have become increasingly competitive and in response we have refreshed our approach to listening. During 2022/23, we continued the use of pulse surveys, providing more frequent opportunities for colleague feedback, better manager guidance and support and clearer reporting and action planning. Online ideas boards were introduced for the first time this year, enabling suggestions for improvement to be crowd sourced.

In total, over 12,000 employees were surveyed in 2022. We have been delighted with the increased response rates which have averaged 84% versus 72% in 2021.

Despite a challenging external environment, we have seen some marked improvements in perceptions in recognition, based on our feedback in our engagement survey, which has seen a 9% increase due in part to our continued focus on our Smithies programme which celebrates the fantastic achievements of our colleagues. We have also seen a further increase in inclusion (+5%) and safety (+4%).

There have also been some fantastic examples of efforts at site level, for example in . Between 2021 and 2023, engagement here increased from 46% to 83%, putting it 9%above the external norm and it is now our most engaged site in North Europe.

We have designed and implemented improvements to our onboarding experience to ensure colleagues who are new to DS Smith are engaged and productive as quickly as possible. These improvements include a redesigned onboarding process, onboarding e-learning which is being translated into 11 core languages and an onboarding hub in which individuals can access all the key information, processes and tools they need as a new starter.

Our European Works Council (EWC), which includes 50 representatives from across the business, engages twice a year with management to provide further feedback and discuss opportunities to improve. Regular engagement with regional leads, as well as both safety and diversity committees, ensures we have a regular two-way dialogue on employee matters across Europe.

In 2024/25, we will continue to run targeted pulse surveys more frequently to give opportunities for our employees to provide regular feedback and drive action.

Developing our employees 

Our talent and learning agenda focuses on capabilities for growth, skill and performance levels, and succession. We have implemented DS Smith Management Standards to outline clear accountabilities and have expanded our learning academies. We continue to invest in our learning platform, adding new content and languages, and launching conversation AI functionality. We also run the Aspire Programme and the Compass programme with Oxford Saïd Business School to develop high potential talents. Our graduate development programme has seen increased interest and recognition, as we were honoured with the 'Manufacturing and Engineering Company of the Year' award at the British HR Awards. 

Creating a modern, inclusive and diverse culture 

We are committed to building the diversity of our workforce to better reflect the communities we operate in. Together we are building an inclusive environment where everyone can realise their potential and thrive. This is fundamental for any successful company today and crucial to our strategic goal ‘to realise the potential of our people’. 

Our active networks provide a supportive space for employees to openly discuss their experiences and perspectives, promoting greater awareness and wellness. Membership in our active networks increased by over 60% in 2023/24. Our four active networks are LGBTQ+ & Allies Network, Culture & Ethnic Diversity Network, Gender Diversity Network, and Disability & Allies Network.

In May 2023, DS Smith joined Workplace Pride to further drive LGBTQ+ inclusion at work. The company also established an internal DEI Steering Committee (Steerco) to support knowledge-sharing among the active networks. Additionally, the active networks collaborated with the European Works Council to increase DEI engagement among non-wired colleagues through the establishment of a community of DEI Site Champions.

DS Smith at Cardiff Pride 2024
DS Smith at Cardiff Pride 2024

Diversity of our team 

The overall percentage of females in DS Smith increased by 0.4% to 23.2% in the financial year 2023/24. Our total number of employees at 30 April 2024 was 28,978 of which 22,259 (76.8%) were male and 6,715 (23.2%) were female.

As reported in November 2023 in the 2023 FTSE Women Leaders Report, representation of women in our senior leadership (defined in accordance with the requirements of the FTSE Women Leaders Review as those on our four Executive Committees – Group Operating Committee; Group Strategy Committee; Group Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainability Committee; and Group M&A Committee – and their direct reports) was 31.1%in the 12 months to 31 October 2023.