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Sixteen major firms have called for greater diversity across the UK’s automotive industry, launching a charter to address recruitment processes and equity of opportunity.

The charter, with signatories including lobby group the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), marks the first time the nation’s industry has united under one banner to address diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

It mandates the appointment of board-level DEI champions to lead company-wide changes for signatories, who also pledge to improve recruitment practices to remove bias and create a more flexible working environment for all.

Automotive Council UK said in a statement: “We in the UK automotive industry believe that people are the key to our success. 

“The scale and pace of our innovation requires a rich diversity of skills, perspectives and experience, and our future prosperity hinges on our ability to attract the best and brightest talent from across all backgrounds, ages, races, religions, genders, sexual orientations and abilities to create a workforce that represents our customers and communities.

“We are committed to creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where everyone is welcomed, respected and enabled to play their part in helping us drive the future of mobility in the UK and globally.”

The DEI charter was drawn up in response to the Automotive Council’s September report titled Driving Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the UK Automotive Industry.

It found that – despite existing DEI programmes at many companies – the automotive industry lags far behind others in the UK. For example, women comprised just 12% of its workforce, compared with 47% for the UK on the whole.

The report also cited a 2019 study by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which found that top-scoring companies for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to generate above-average profits. For ethnic and cultural diversity, this rose to 36%.

The charter will be launched officially at the SMMT annual dinner later today.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes called the scheme a “pivotal moment” for the industry, noting that a “rich diversity of skills, perspectives and experience can give us a competitive advantage”.

Also attending the dinner will be the three winners of Autocar’s Drivers of Change initiative for 2022, held in partnership with executive search specialists Ennis and Co.

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