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February 14, 2023 7:09pm

Investor Perspective: Legacy Leaving Leadership: A CEO’s Role in Driving Positive, Sustainable Change

Legacy Leaving Leadership: A CEO’s Role in Driving Positive, Sustainable Change

Since 2020, we’ve seen organizations across numerous industries and sectors make diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) commitments, pledging their time and resources to advancing this crucial work. They’ve hired chief diversity officers, invested behind committees and teams focused on DEI, established Employee Resource Groups, and still… results are marginal at best with representation objectives lagging and progress seeming elusive. But, why?

One of the biggest unlocks to driving results starts with a company’s CEO. Any DEI strategy is only as strong as leadership’s unwavering commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive company, ensuring shared ownership and accountability across every facet of an organization. As a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, my role is truly to be a change agent for our business and a strategic partner to our CEO and executive and senior leadership teams.  Together, we have a shared accountability in driving this work forward. For real change and impact to be achieved, DEI must be led from the top and understood as a business priority and societal imperative, rooted in data, with a strategy that is action-oriented and supported by our leaders.

When I joined Beam Suntory in 2021, President and CEO Albert Baladi, shared with me his sincere and personal commitment to help and inspire us to be better and do better with DEI being central to his legacy. This includes holding himself and our leaders accountable to ensuring DEI is a priority within business strategies and objectives. He understands his impact and knows his role is to model behavior for the rest of the organization by always bringing the topics around DEI to the forefront of all of our conversations.

Like many companies, we’ve taken steps as an organization to ensure our leaders share a responsibility to advance representation and equity, and to promote work environments where our people feel heard, valued and supported. This includes ensuring all people managers have a measurable DEI goal in their personal objectives, launching an inclusive leadership training for senior leaders, and leveraging data and insights to identify existing barriers that are impacting marginalized communities to truly begin to operationalize the work. The difference maker for us is the leadership Albert brings to bear by always keeping the focus on DEI and provoking us to always engage in thinking through the DEI lens.

As a result of his leadership and the work we have done across the organization, we are making progress, but there is still much work to do to drive positive, sustainable change. To future proof our business and support our DEI ambitions, it is imperative that DEI is a shared responsibility and ensure everyone is held accountable for achieving our goals.

I’ve had the honor of supporting Greater Louisville Inc’s CEO Roundtable for quite some time, and have been inspired by the power of community and what we can do when we come together to share our learnings, best practices and successes. We are better together when everyone’s unique insights, experiences and backgrounds are heard, valued and respected – and all ships can rise. Executive leaders across a variety of sectors, industries and businesses throughout our community dedicating their time to learn, grow and drive real collective impact is a powerful thing.

True accountability is driven from the very top of an organization and supported by its leadership teams. To the executive leaders of Greater Louisville, I ask: What is your call to action? How will you be remembered? What legacy will you leave?

Victoria Russell

Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Beam Suntory

GLI Board Member & Executive Committee Member

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