Empowered to lead change

We are committed to leading the way for change, not only for the benefit of the environment but also for our people and wider society. 


At DS Smith we have around 30,000 talented individuals working across North America, and throughout Europe, to build a more sustainable world, and we are growing every day.

Just as we tackle single-use plastic with purpose, we are on a journey to strengthen a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within our organisation. 

We are imagining a future where we stimulate creativity and foster the innovation required for us to lead the transition to a low carbon, circular economy. This future is not far away. Increasingly, as people from diverse backgrounds come together, they bring a wider range of perspectives, experiences and ideas. Diverse teams generate unique solutions and approach issues from multiple angles helping us to focus on the sustainability challenges we face today, as well as those that will impact on future generations

How do we drive DEI at DS Smith?

We are taking action to ensure our workforce reflects the  diverse communities we operate in and the customers we serve. We seek to celebrate the various backgrounds and lived experiences of our colleagues. 

We understand that our workforce is unique. Rather than treat everyone the same, we aspire to be an equity-minded employer, endeavouring to provide everyone with what they need to succeed – recognising that not everyone starts from the same place.  

We will strive to embed inclusion into everything we do at DS Smith. We want everyone to feel like they belong, that they have a voice, and that they can meaningfully contribute to DS Smith. 

A key part of this work is a commitment to ensuring all people managers – including our Site Leaders - complete inclusion awareness training by the end of 2025. We have redesigned the programme to ensure it meets the needs of our global workforce. 

Our DEI Strategy

Our DEI Strategy has 3 pillars: (1) Visible leadership, (2) Active networks, (3) People processes
Our DEI Strategy has 3 pillars: (1) Visible leadership, (2) Active networks, (3) People processes

To fulfill our Purpose of 'Redefining Packaging for a Changing World,' we need a diverse, motivated, and engaged workforce. Our goal is to build a culture of inclusion, where everyone is treated fairly, differences are valued, and we all have the opportunity to thrive. Change starts from within, so, to accelerate this ambition, we created a DEI strategy with 3 pillars: visible leadership, active networks, and people processes. 

We are investing in our leaders. This will provide the cultural awareness and understanding needed to role-model inclusive behaviours and recruit and manage diverse teams.

Stefano Rossi
Divisional CEO Packaging

Next comes our Active Networks (our name for Employee Resource Groups), representing the many vibrant communities that make up our organisation. Active Networks foster a sense of belonging by creating a safe and supportive space for employees who share a common sense of identity. They offer a platform for members to openly discuss their experiences, concerns and perspectives, which in turn can lead to positively building wellness through greater empathy and understanding. Active Networks also promote greater awareness through a range of means including supporting key dates and celebrations within their respective communities.     

The active networks provide me with a platform to engage with diverse perspectives and advocate for inclusivity. As a woman of colour, I feel like it's my duty to bring awareness to issues faced by marginalised groups and catalyse positive change.

Jeel Desai
Chair of the Gender Diversity Network & Core Team Member of the Culture & Ethnic Diversity Network

We are committed to fostering an inclusive culture which builds upon the talents and diversity of our colleagues, where all our people can be themselves, perform at their best, and fulfil their potential. Maintaining high standards of integrity and inclusion is a top priority for our business, and we rely on every individual at DS Smith to ensure we do the right thing as a company. 

Visible Leadership

We aim to equip our key decision-makers with the critical knowledge to champion DEI across the organisation, in addition to building a diverse talent pipeline: 

  • Inclusive leadership workshops, reverse mentoring, and DEI toolkits 
  • Regular DEI roundtables and events, inviting internal and external role models to share their perspectives, raise awareness, and drive action 
  • Set gender targets & track metrics for professional roles, senior search, and graduates throughout recruitment processes 
  • Development programs, mentoring & coaching support for high-potential female talent & colleagues from other under-represented groups 

Paul Brown, Managing Director of Paper Sourcing & Procurement, reflects on his experiences as GOC Sponsor of the LGBTQ+ & Allies Network:

"Seeing colleagues at London Pride come together and celebrate our differences was wonderful. I've also had the opportunity to attend a Pronouns workshop with my Leadership Team, opening up many conversations about how to be more inclusive at work.” 

Paul Brown, Managing Director of Paper Sourcing & Procurement
Paul Brown, Managing Director of Paper Sourcing & Procurement

Active networks

Our active networks represent and advocate for our diverse communities at DS Smith:

  • LGBTQ+ and Allies network
  • Cultural and Ethnic Diversity network
  • Gender Diversity network
  • Disability & Allies network
DS Smith participating in London Pride
DS Smith participating in London Pride

Sponsored by Global Operating Committee members and growing fast, our active networks are supported to influence widespread, positive change.   For example, the networks have ignited lots of exciting change since their launch:

  • Welcomed a range of speakers into the organisation
  • Created educational resources for their colleagues
  • Initiated DS Smith’s participation in external events, including London Pride
  • Demonstrating our commitment to driving DEI through our partnership with Workplace Pride 
  • Piloting schemes to extend membership to ‘non-wired’ colleagues who might not otherwise be able to take part

The networks also host monthly coffee breaks to create a safe space for colleagues to discuss a range of topics, including menopause and menstrual health, hidden disabilities, and LGBTQ+ allyship.

People processes

Our people processes encompass the policies that align with our DEI agenda. These policies keep us committed and accountable to our DEI goals. 

  • Our Equal Opportunity & Anti-Discrimination Policy sets out the approach to equal opportunities and the avoidance of discrimination at DS Smith and our procedures for issues regarding discrimination, harassment, and related conflicts. 
  • Inclusive policies to support our people at different life stages and/or with important personal commitments, including our menopause policy and adoption policy 
  • As illustrated through our Speak Up!procedure, we encourage our people to speak up if they suspect a breach of any policy or our Code of Conduct without fear of retaliation. 
  • As a global company, we are committed to protecting our workforce from exploitation across the supply chain and have a zero-tolerance stance on modern slavery, harassment or discrimination of any kind. 

To spread awareness of these policies and get everyone on board with DEI, we continue to build a learning culture within DS Smith. All employees are invited to take our Equal Opportunities training. We also use our Intranet and e-learning platforms to educate our colleagues on key DEI topics, such as unconscious bias and allyship. 

Celebrating our wins

While DEI is a long-term project, and we still have work to do, we have made progress. 

  • DS Smith was recognised by the UK Newspaper the Financial Times as a 2022 Leader in Diversity. 
  • In 2023 the Gender Diversity Network was recognised in our annual internal recognition programme, ‘The Smithie Awards’ winning the ‘Realising the Potential of our People’ award. This followed the success of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Network the previous year who had won their award to recognise their Pride Month activity.  
The Gender Diversity Network winning the Smithie Award for inspiring and raising awareness about many important topics.
The Gender Diversity Network winning the Smithie Award for inspiring and raising awareness about many important topics.

Our ambition & where we want to go

We are on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion journey and we are excited about our future as an organisation. To further engage our non-wired workforce, we will continue to grow our active networks across our various sites and locations, especially outside of the UK. This project will involve partnering with local and corporate groups and organisations to become more connected to our communities and remain on top of implementing DEI best practice. Ultimately, our goal is to embed DEI into everything that we set out to do as a business, and that all our people feel empowered to be their authentic selves at work and thrive.  

We are bringing together our female colleagues across our organisation and learning from each other’s experiences, creating a small network that provides unique insight and connections.

Shona Inglis
Group Head of Internal Communications at DS Smith