BAT – a global company that adopts the same DEI policy around the world
BAT is a global company, but its approach to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), the same regardless of the country in which it operates, helps to create the same opportunities and standards everywhere.
BAT Poland is part of the BAT Group, which operates in more than 175 markets, has 11 million points of sale, and owns 75 production facilities around the world. The group employs more than 3,200 people in Poland, including an office in Warsaw, a cigarette factory in Augustów, an eSW sales network, an eSmoking Liquids factory, an eSmoking Institute R&D center as well as BAT Digital Business Solutions (DBS), which has been operational since July 2022. BAT Poland, whose headquarters is in Warsaw, is a rapidly growing commercial hub which provides global services in the Digital Business Services sector.
In addition to traditional tobacco goods, BAT's portfolio in Poland includes a number of innovative products: e-cigarettes with leading brand Vuse, new heating technology tobacco products under the glo brand name, and VELO nicotine sachets. Their development is part of the company’s “A Better Tomorrow” strategy, whose aim is to reduce the impact of the company's operations on health and the environment.
When we recruit, we always pay attention to balanced gender representation. We systematically organize training sessions on equality standards in the work environment and on avoiding unconscious bias. Our activities in this area are aimed at individuals as well as groups and include Senior Women Leadership Development Program, Storytelling: Impact & Gravitas, BeUnited, Parents@BAT, Women@BAT, and Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). As you may well have guessed, the idea behind the last program is to attract and retain more women in R&D, operations, and digital technology departments.
Diversity is in BAT’s DNA
BAT's global policy is particularly important where national law does not guarantee paid parental leave or a return to work in a previously held position. That's why we also emphasize so strongly the education and awareness-building component through our D&I policy. Talent and an engaging culture are key to BAT's success. Diversity and inclusion are supported by implementing activities common to all companies within the BAT Group, but initiatives "tailored" to the needs of each of the constituent organizations are also part of the company’s policy. It is important that we also integrate individuals who differ in gender, preference, orientation, outlook and age, and not just as co-workers who perform specific tasks. For example, the involvement of our colleagues in important projects – both ecological and social, stems from this diversity and sensitivity to different goals. These initiatives include various charitable campaigns, tree planting and clean-up initiatives organized as part of the #AllianceForWaterStewardship initiative, as well as helping shelters.
Diversity brings out the best in an organization and enables it to succeed. It is already firmly embedded in our DNA, and we are proud to say that BAT is the first company in the tobacco industry to receive the Global Equality Standard (GES).
We focus on talent
Building an innovative, competitive economy that is attractive to foreign investors requires tapping into a broad talent pool. This process begins at the employee search stage and continues during recruitment, onboarding, and integration into the existing team. We look at diversity through a very wide prism. The recruitment process also has a social dimension that takes into account where one grew up, broadly defined experience, including access to education and, of course, cultural background. So, for example, as in many other global companies, at BAT DBS Poland we can meet employees from many countries around the world (28 nationalities, 24 languages), as well as different ages (19-63). The commitment to balanced gender representation is illustrated by the 46-percent share of women in the senior management group.
What's our advantage?
As available research and studies indicate, the taking into account of the situation and needs of people from diverse groups in the workplace has a positive impact on foreign investment, which in turn benefits the country’s overall economy.
The ability to consciously manage diversity, and nurture both an engaging organizational culture, as well as workplaces which are designed to respect individual differences, are essential to maintaining a competitive edge in the international market.
D&I strategies are also part of showing BAT’s corporate social commitment, actively influencing local and global social norms and changing attitudes with regard to equality policies. Therefore, behind equality change in the organization, there is also the intention to build a world that excludes no one and is welcoming to all. Regulatory and business trends related to requirements and the interest of regulators and investors in ESG indicators mean that a company that is focused on growth cannot ignore diversity management issues. It's already a necessity, and not merely a display of awareness or goodwill.
Adopting D&I measures also has commercial benefits. It has been proven that companies that have a diverse workforce and promote values such as team integration, acceptance and learning from each other, are more productive and achieve better results. Companies with a diverse structure in terms of gender, age, culture and ethnicity perform 35-40 percent better than those that are not diverse in terms of these criteria.
D&I policies also have a PR effect as they increase the employer's attractiveness on the labor market which increases the chance of attracting more candidates who are valuable from the employer's point of view. A positive and welcoming working environment that is free of discrimination, simply attracts talent.
Awareness and self-awareness are key to success
Managing a diverse environment also brings challenges. One of them is knowing and accepting that we all carry biases that unconsciously influence our decisions. These so-called "unconscious biases" are the legacy of the environment and culture in which we grew up, as well as our experiences that program our brains to schematically evaluate and repress the unfamiliar.
Every community, even the smallest, is diverse, and every person has different needs.
Equality of opportunity is recognition that we all have the same rights under the legal framework in which we live as well as the adoption of a different, individualistic approach.
An important part of our work is also to prevent professional burnout and build self-awareness of how to maintain a healthy work-life balance. A well-being program - #ChargeBATteries - based on three pillars: mental health, physical health and moments that matter, was created by employees in a post-pandemic world, whose uncertainty was compounded by both the war in Ukraine and inflation. Another program, BAT CHIC Family Helps, also responds to the demand for balance and conscious awareness of one's needs. The idea is to create a friendly and open workplace based on respect.
Integration, not promotion
Our right to diversity, is also about freedom in terms of belonging to groups or identifying (or not) with certain values and ways of thinking. At BAT, different communities such as the women at the Augustów factory (BATwoman), the aforementioned global Women in STEM, Parents@BAT and B UNITED, all help to support the organizational culture.
Through frank conversations and openness, we can identify threats to our inclusion efforts. In difficult situations, in addition to mediating and supporting those who need it, we respond in a multi-faceted manner by offering dedicated training to help them recover from problems. The catalog of our company's values (ETHOS BAT) lists diversity among its five core elements. Furthermore, the role of leaders is to strengthen and lead the implementation of all our values, which also include courage, rapidity in action, the ability to take it on responsibility.
Bożena Soberka, Head of HR Poland and Baltics British American Tobacco Polska Trading Sp. z o.o.
Anna Karolska, HR Lead British American Tobacco Digital Business Solutions Polska Sp. z o.o.
The article was created in cooperation with BAT DBS which partnered in the World Values Day celebrations.