The importance of realising the potential of your people

This week, we marked International Women’s Day, which is a critical celebration and acknowledgement of the role women play in business and society and it was inspiring to see how so many DS Smith employees celebrated the moment together. Diversity of talent and thought is critical to any successful business and I am proud to work alongside so many talented people.

However, manufacturing has not historically been an industry that attracted women. This is changing. We are now able to recruit equal numbers of both men and women through our graduate programme and it is an important step forward. The job is not done and as an industry, there is more we can all do to attract and retain the very best talent. And it’s important not just because of the culture you want to create, inclusive companies are more likely to lead and capture new markets.

We are proud of our heritage and in our approach to our people. I am encouraged by the fact that our average employee stays with us for 14 years. This level of ongoing engagement for any business is critical and supports the ideal that you are building something important together through shared experiences, learnings and innovation. For me, it also means that a company has the right values and vision, one which everyone can relate to and which helps to build progress. I believe it must also be underpinned by a clear Purpose and business strategy.

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Once an organisation and its people can align behind a shared Purpose and common set of goals you start to see this translate into real business momentum. For us, this means leading the way in sustainability and driving the transition to the circular economy, delighting our customers, while also realising the potential of our people by creating a safe and meritocratic working environment. Our productivity for example, doesn’t shift from one market to another as it does at a national level. It is consistent because everyone knows what is expected of them and how DS Smith will support them to deliver for our customers, while supporting their own development.

During the pandemic, I’ve most missed being able to visit our sites, which through the dedication of our people have kept operating 24/7 throughout. I take huge energy from the talented people we have working across our sites, from the recycling depots and paper mills, to the packaging plants supplying our customers day in and day out. As we continue to lift lockdowns across the markets in which we operate, I am looking forward to getting back out and thanking our people in person for the work they have done to bring our Purpose of ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’ to life.