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Chris Shearer-Wright’s mission to build a proud and inclusive Oliver Bonas

Championing Change in Retail In an industry often driven by commercial targets and customer trends, Chris Shearer-Wright stands out as a beacon of progressive change. As… View Article


Chris Shearer-Wright’s mission to build a proud and inclusive Oliver Bonas

Championing Change in Retail

In an industry often driven by commercial targets and customer trends, Chris Shearer-Wright stands out as a beacon of progressive change. As the Senior Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Oliver Bonas, Chris’s commitment to building a more inclusive and equitable workplace is not only having a positive impact on the company’s culture, but also setting a benchmark in the retail sector.

We sat down with Chris to discuss his role, the impact of his work, and the future of EDI at Oliver Bonas (OB).

Chris, what does a typical day look like for you? 

No two days are ever the same, which makes my role incredibly varied and rewarding. We’ve built many new policies, and now we focus on turning those words into action through raising awareness and training.

I often visit stores, providing support, and work on creating an environment where differences are embraced, and individuals can flourish. For example, today I started my day with a visit to a local SEN support charity, SOS!SEN. We’re collaborating on a project to support young children and their families, ensuring they receive the essential services they need. It was heartwarming to meet the CEO and staff and hear their inspiring stories.

This partnership idea came from one of our team members whose son, Sam, a young, neurodiverse entrepreneur, suggested we install gumball machines in our stores. While we were able to explain to him that this wouldn’t be feasible, we ended up creating a Christmas decoration inspired by his concept that will be available to buy later this year.

The proceeds will go to the charity, and these types of engagements make my work so fulfilling. Olly, our founder, was fully supportive of this initiative, which perfectly captures the supportive and inclusive work environment at OB.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion? 

My journey into EDI was quite organic. Having started at Oliver Bonas nearly 12 years ago, I’ve worked in various roles from Retail Management to Operations, Visual Merchandising, and most recently six years in our Learning and Development team. Throughout these experiences, I realised that the common thread was my passion for people and ensuring everyone feels valued and included. Moving into a dedicated EDI role was a natural progression, allowing me to build on our inclusive culture to ensure everyone can bring their whole selves to work.

Can you share some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in implementing EDI initiatives? 

As the business continues to grow, one of the biggest challenges it is maintaining engagement and outreach – It’s not just about introducing policies but also about ensuring they are understood and embraced by everyone.

Another challenge is gathering and analysing data, particularly around social mobility, to inform our strategies and ensure they are effective. Despite these challenges, the progress we’ve made and the positive impact on our team make it all worthwhile.

What have been some of the most rewarding moments at Oliver Bonas? 

There have been many rewarding moments, but seeing the tangible impact of our initiatives is particularly fulfilling and something I’m really proud of. Developing and implementing policies like our transition at work, menopause, and disability inclusion has significantly improved the work environment for our team members, and their positive feedback reinforces the importance of this work.

I am particularly proud of our internal network groups – The Voices Network, eight groups consisting of team members from across the business who come together to share their lived experiences, similarities and differences, Our Voices networks have been invaluable in acting as a soundboard when piloting new schemes, rolling out new policy or simply coming with ideas for a product they think we should be selling.

We’re also a signatory of the “Age Friendly Employer Pledge.” Being the first national high street retailer to sign this pledge was a proud moment for us all – showcasing our commitment to building a multi-generational workforce and highlighting the inclusive culture we’re on a mission to build every day.

How do you measure the success of EDI initiatives at Oliver Bonas? 

Success in EDI can be measured in various ways. We look at engagement levels in our workshops and training sessions, feedback from our team, and the diversity of our new hires. Plus, we monitor key metrics like retention rates and promotion rates among diverse groups.

Ultimately, the success of our initiatives is reflected in a more inclusive and supportive workplace where everyone feels they belong.

How do you stay updated on the latest trends and developments in the field of EDI? 

Staying updated is important because things are evolving every day. I regularly attend webinars, workshops, and conferences, particularly those organised by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). As signatories of their Diversity and Inclusion Charter, we benefit from their invaluable resources, webinars, and roundtables. Networking with peers in the industry, following thought leaders in this space, and taking part in discussions helps me stay up to date on new trends, best practices, and so on. The BRC provides a great platform for sharing ideas and learning from others in the industry, which is crucial for continuous improvement in EDI.

How do you see the future of EDI evolving in the retail industry? 

Technology will play a significant role, providing new tools for measuring and enhancing inclusion. For instance, data analytics can help us understand workforce demographics and identify areas for improvement, while digital platforms can facilitate more inclusive communication and training.

I also see a greater emphasis on intersectionality, recognising and addressing the interconnected nature of social categorisations. Social mobility will become a key focus, with companies creating pathways for individuals from diverse backgrounds to advance within organisations.

The younger generation will drive a lot of this change. They are incredibly inspiring, politically engaged, and socially conscious, demanding workplaces that align with their values of inclusivity and fairness. Younger employees often use platforms like TikTok as search engines, showcasing their innovative approach to information and learning. Their insistence on fair and equitable workplaces challenges us to continuously evolve and improve. Ultimately, I believe that a commitment to EDI will become a standard expectation in the industry, driving meaningful and lasting change, supported by the fresh perspectives and demands of the younger generation. The future is exciting and full of potential.

Chris Shearer-Wright is the Senior Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Oliver Bonas, where he has worked for nearly 12 years. With a background in fashion marketing from Glasgow Caledonian University, Chris has progressively moved through various roles within the company, focusing on learning and development and inclusion. Outside of work, Chris mentors emerging Black entrepreneurs through the Black Business Residency and has served as a Board Trustee for Mosaic LGBT+ Young Persons’ Trust. His dedication to creating inclusive environments makes him a leader in his field and a pivotal figure at Oliver Bonas.

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