By Sue Round, Head of Social Mobility, Inclusion and Belonging (interim)

I’ve only been at the Co-op for a month or so now, but I’m so impressed with the passion that I’ve witnessed when it comes to inclusion and making sure all colleagues feel like they belong. We’re on such an important and exciting journey.

National Inclusion week will shortly draw to a close. The week is a brilliant one which shines the spotlight on the importance of inclusivity, but let’s be clear; our focus does not come to an end because the week does – inclusion at Co-op isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s how we do business.

Inclusion in its simplest form is about being accepted and supported for being who you are. Unfortunately, we know that for many people this is often not the case and we know that this is unacceptable.

Simply, we want all colleagues to feel included listened to and respected, and able to be themselves at work. To truly belong.

As Gareth said in his story to launch the week, we’re all made up of so many identities, some we don’t even know we have yet. It really makes no sense to treat somebody differently because of a first impression, a bias (conscious and unconscious), or because they’re different to you. Our Co-op thrives because of inclusivity and difference and it should be celebrated and learnt from.

When it comes to first impressions, for many of you I am a white woman with much privilege – however for women at work it’s a long journey. When my children were small, I felt I had to hide being a mother as it was seen to signal an impossible conflict by some managers. One of my children is gay and that has meant that I’ve had deeper insight for how hard that can be still.

We want everyone who works here to feel included, to be successful we all need to unite and take responsibility. We should celebrate difference, speak out and challenge discriminatory thinking or actions. By doing this, we’ll collectively achieve our vision to Co-operate for a Fairer World.

We’ve made progress, but there’s more to do and we’ll continue to focus on inclusivity, and we’ll use our voice to make change for good.

Black History Month begins today, and we’ll be sharing more throughout October on this – look out on Monday for a colleague story from Steve and Shirine about the month and what it means to our Co-op.

We’ve got five colleague networks that you can link in with and find support. Aspire for women colleagues and their allies, Respect for LGBTQ+ colleagues, Rise for ethnic minority colleagues, Strive for younger colleagues and Represent for disabled colleagues – find out more about the here.