Transport Sector Join Forces to Record Largest-Ever UK Data Survey on Employee Diversity

The Sustainability Tool, a software application designed to help organisations and supply chains track and measure their sustainability performance, has been used to record the largest-ever data survey on employee diversity within the transport sector.

Between July and September 2021, data was collected from over 250,000 employees across 88 supply chains of 4 major transport infrastructure companies: HS2, National Highways, Network Rail and Transport for London.

Nick Harris, CEO at National Highways, said: “By collaborating across the transport sector we can better understand the challenges we face in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. By sharing best practice, we can help each other to understand where we can improve and effectively make change.”

The annual diversity survey, carried out within the Sustainability Tool, plays an integral role in supporting the transport sector on their mission to engage and raise awareness on diversity, equality and inclusion. Supply chain organisations are engaged to input their employee data voluntarily within the Tool, with categories including Gender, Age, Religion & Belief, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Disability, Voluntary Leavers, Part-Time Status, and Attraction & Recruitment. Each category informs subsequent indicators that align with the ONS’ standard of diversity data collection.

A standardised version of the Sustainability Tool software system has been custom-built for the diversity survey to provide an anonymous and aggregated view of all responses, offering insights into the diversity make-up of the sector. Respondents have free access to in-depth and interactive dashboards, that compare their employee-base with the sector’s and the ONS UK population statistics.

Philip Hewson, Head of Strategy & Performance, Procurement & Supply Chain at Transport for London, said: “Data is the key to understanding and driving meaningful diversity and inclusion in our own organisation and throughout our supply chains.”

Results of the survey are used to set aspirational targets at all levels for recruitment, retention and progression of under-represented groups that reflect the demographic of the UK population. Highlights include:

  • Gender inequality remains, with only 23% being female employees
  • An increased representation of ethnic minority groups in the transport sector versus 2019, but ethnic minorities representation was still 0.4% below the ONS UK population average
  • Lack of data collection around disability, with 31.8% of employees not disclosing if they have a disability or not
  • Disclosure in the LBTQ+ sexual orientation category is progressively increasing across the sector, yet 1.5% LGBTQ+ employees reported across the sector is still below the ONS UK population average of 3.4%

The survey provides an in-depth record of diversity data, which is built upon annually to track progress in the construction sector, establish benchmarks and set targets to work toward.

The survey continues to be complemented by Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) programme activities. Funded by CITB and run by the Supply Chain Sustainability School (the “School”), the FIR programme is an industry-wide initiative that aims to make workplaces better for everyone. It provides free industry-endorsed training and resources, as well as guidance and materials, supporting businesses to be more innovative and profitable, by addressing workplace culture challenges and helping to attract and retain people from a full pool of talent.

Emer Murnaghan OBE, Innovation Director at GRAHAM said: “As an organisation that actively engages in this annual survey, we’ve gained key insights into the diversity of our own workforce and can compare our performance against the industry standard. This enables us to focus on the specific areas where we need to accelerate change in our business. We welcome this leading, integrated, and collaborative approach from key transport industry clients. We applaud Supply Chain Sustainability School for their key role in developing the tool and making it available to the wider industry.”

The diversity survey will re-open in Summer 2022, whereby all organisations working in the sector will be invited to complete it on a voluntary basis. To support organisations with their submissions, the School will also be running online workshops to explain how to access and use the Tool.  Suppliers with over 250 employees will be automatically directed to complete a more detailed submission, and those with less than 250 employees will complete a ‘Lite’ version to encourage smaller SME and Tier 2 business engagement.

Ian Heptonstall, Director of Supply Chain Sustainability School (and owner of the Sustainability Tool), said: “We’re delighted to support the major transport clients in their ambitions to improve diversity within the sector. To obtain a survey sample size of over 250,000 employees is phenomenal and provides unprecedented insights into the problems at hand. We’re now seeking to expand this initiative across other sectors and organisations.”

The diversity survey is also available for usage across other industries, whilst the Sustainability Tool can help businesses report and manage sustainability performance across more than just diversity, whether that be within an organisation, its projects, contracts and supply chain.

Organisations wishing to use the diversity survey or wider Sustainability Tool within their own supply chain should contact

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