THE Co-operative Group's Director of Human Resources has warned that the Co-op must tackle diversity issues head on if it is to survive and prosper in 21st century Britain.
At the Group's first diversity conference at New Century House, Manchester, Richard Bide (pictured) told the 119 delegates from all parts of the UK that "tinkering is not enough".
He insisted the Group must do much more than reach the minimum legal standards on diversity issues, adding: "Diversity is not about legal compliance ? though complying with the law is a minimum requirement ? it is about recognising and valuing all those differences which now comprise the communities of which we are part."
Mr Bide said diversity must become a theme that is moved from being an isolated initiative, separate from running the business and managing its people, to an issue that is built into all of the policies and procedures that govern the recruitment, induction, appraisal, reward, and training procedures across the whole of the Group.
As part of its commitment to increasing diversity, the Co-op Group has appointed Mags Bradbury as Membership Diversity Officer. She takes up her post next month after being introduced at the conference by chair Chris Herries, who also chaired the recent Diversity Working Group.
Ms Herries encouraged delegates to consider what the Group is already doing well and how things can be improved in future.
Following the opening plenary sessions, delegates took part in a number of workshops.
Reporting on the work of the International Co-operative Alliance, Maria Elena Chavez Hertig, ICA Deputy General, outlined its progress on promoting gender equality, sharing examples of good practice from co-ops around the world.
Emma Grey from Lifecraft, a self-help organisation run by users and ex-users of mental health services, gave an insight into issues that those with mental health needs may face.
Philomena de Lima, of the Diversity Working Group, ran a workshop that looked at diversity from a rural perspective.
In a closing address, Maria Eagle, Minister for Disabled People and MP for Liverpool Garston, made a speech highlighting the importance of organisations addressing diversity and equality issues among employees, members and customers.
Ms Eagle outlined government initiatives from the Department of Work and Pensions, making particular reference to the issue of disability, but emphasised that work still needs to be done to update the public perception of what disability means in Britain today.