Caring for our people

At DS Smith, our most valuable asset is our people. Realising the potential of our people is essential for the continued growth of the business. As a responsible employer, we are conscious of the wide-reaching impact of employment relationships on individuals, their families and the communities in which they live and work.

We provide direct employment and livelihoods for over 32,000 people. Through their experience and advocacy, we have an impact on their friends and family. In many cases, our production sites are located outside major cities, in industrial parks or less populated rural areas, making us a significant employer in those localities.

We also extend our impact as an employer through our broader stakeholder network of contractors, suppliers, customers and charitable partners, creating touch points to a global community.


DS Smith is an equal opportunities employer. Our Code of Conduct details our commitment to strive towards a non-discriminatory Group culture based on our values. We seek to build upon the talents of our global workforce without regard to gender, race, ethnic or national origin, marital status, pregnancy, parental status, sexual orientation, gender re-assignment, trade union membership, age, religion or belief, political affiliation or disability.

We are working with our European Works Council (EWC) on the topic of diversity and inclusion in the broadest sense as part of the implementation of our Employee Charter. This involves the creation of working groups to boost the representation of minority groups within the employee base and ensuring there are clear channels for employees to speak to their representatives or to use our Speak Up! phone line, should they encounter any bias or unfair actions.

This year, we have published gender pay gap information for our UK businesses for the first time. The evidence in the report reflects the hard work we have put in to implement a fair and equitable policy and process when it comes to reward. What our report, and those of others in the industry, has highlighted is the need to encourage more women into jobs in the manufacturing industry. DS Smith is keen to take a leading role in promoting training, recruitment and networking opportunities to enhance the gender diversity of our workforce and to promote inclusive work practices.

Respect for our people

We have a duty to manage business ethics and labour topics in our own operations, aligned with the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act (UK). For DS Smith, our position as a strategic supplier to many of the most recognisable FMCG brands means that we have an opportunity to provide our customers with the highest level of assurance that their packaging is sustainably and ethically sourced.

We continuously maintain 100 per cent of our sites registered on the Sedex platform and completing the Self-Assessment Questionnaire. One third of our largest sites verify their answers through third-party SMETA 4-pillar audits.

Talent, careers, education and training

Working in partnership with our EWC, we have also been proactively seeking ways to retain the expert knowledge of our workforce, as many technical experts and long-service employees approach retirement. As a result, we have  reinvigorated apprenticeship and graduate programmes and are tightening international good practice sharing or coordination surrounding these programmes.

Our apprenticeship scheme introduces young talent into the organisation and gives them the opportunity to become the packaging specialists of tomorrow.


For many years now, we have been developing our ability to support the physical and mental wellbeing of all employees through nutritional advice, healthy food options in canteens, health check opportunities and exercise groups. This year has also seen the introduction of Mental Health First Aid training for DS Smith employees. This internationally recognised course teaches people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis. Those who attended can now feel confident to guide people towards appropriate support, raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma around mental health and promote early intervention.

Management culture and behaviours

The DS Smith values have been explored in depth with managers at all levels through our Engaging Managers programme. Over the past few years, the programme has given thousands of managers the skills to act as positive role models and engage their teams.

Our high-performance culture is driven by our values, which promote open communication, driving for results, always looking to improve and meeting our commitments to all stakeholders. They set the behavioural code for how all DS Smith employees are expected to carry out their work and are set out in our Code of Conduct. We have also taken steps to recognise our values in action across the Group through a variety of local awards programmes. Most significantly, our Paper and Recycling businesses launched People Excellence Awards.

In addition, we have introduced nine Management Standards that list the key expectations of all DS Smith line managers relating to safety, individual performance, performance development, customer focus, communications, compliance, targets planning and control, business excellence and resourcing. The purpose of these standards is to develop a transparent, responsible and ethical business culture in the workplace.