All along the retail grocery supply chain, companies are stepping up their commitments to ensuring that their employees and customers feel protected and welcome, regardless of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion and other identifying factors.

The Newark, Del.-based International Fresh Produce Association works hard to cultivate an inclusive environment and provide equal employment opportunity to all employees and applicants for employment, said Doug Bohr, the association’s chief education and programs officer.

It is the policy of IFPA, Bohr said, that no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, national original, marital status, age, disability, military status, veteran status, genetic information, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation, or any other status protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.

When it comes to helping its members achieve their DEI goals, IFPA hosts events and programs and offers resources for its members to support their efforts — both in their own companies and across the industry.

Two of the main pillars of IFPA’s DEI programming are its Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference and Women’s Leadership Breakfast, held at the organization’s annual Global Produce & Floral Show. The events are committed to supporting gender equity and allyship in the produce and floral industry.

IFPA has also hosted a month of weekly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program featuring experts on DEI speaking on such essential topics as

  • How Diversity and Inclusion Drive Team and Company Performance;
  • Unconscious Bias and Conscious Inclusion;
  • Creating a More Inclusive Culture;
  • and a session in which members shared their own experience of adopting DEI practices in their companies.

In addition, for more than a decade, IFPA has led talent attraction initiatives on behalf of the industry.

In 2022, for example, the association launched a new Career Pathways Internship program with funding from the USDA’s NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Institute. The program is a paid, 10-week internship offered to encourage under-represented talent in the industry to continue in their studies and pursue career opportunities in our industry. In 2023, Bohr said, IFPA plans to roll out an online introductory course on DEI that IFPA members can access for free and incorporate into their training and orientation for their staff.

“We are all, including IFPA, on our own paths toward understanding what is required of us to be inclusive and create a workplace, workforce and industry that reflects the world and the communities we live in and the consumers we serve,” Bohr said. “It’s encouraging to see how many IFPA members are actively engaging in and participating in IFPA events and programs that offer DEI content and are continuing along their own paths toward advancing DEI among their teams and within their companies.”

IFPA sees great opportunity and interest among its members in engaging under-represented talent and introducing them to careers in the industry and providing resources to under-served small business owners seeking to build a viable business in the industry.

“We’re excited to roll out the online introductory DEI course for members,” Bohr said. “This can be a strong addition to their HR toolkits and training.”

Such a course, when incorporated into staff training and orientation, is a fundamental and important first step toward building knowledge and awareness that is essential to creating an inclusive culture, he added.

“Diversity does not work without inclusion; the more inclusive the culture, the more likely a company is to attracting, hiring and retaining a diverse workplace. And, as studies have proven, a diverse and inclusive workforce makes for a high performing team and company.”

IDDBA: Workplace culture front and center 

The Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy Deli Bakey Association (IDDBA) is fortunate to represent a diverse member base, said Whitney Atkins, global marketing vice president. 

It’s the association’s responsibility to provide tools and resources to help its member organizations grow in today’s marketplace.

“Regardless of the industry, DEI continues to evolve,” Atkins said. “Our educational webinars, podcasts and What’s In Store resources often provide leaders with ways to grow diverse cultures and diverse thoughts.”

Doing that, Atkins said, creates a healthy and happy workplace, and workplace culture tops the lists of both retaining and attracting talent.

IDDBA’s annual tradeshow brings together diverse companies and attendees in one place over three days with the opportunity to connect and grow business.

One of the most popular show floor areas is the What’s In Store Live trends area, where our What’s In Store annual trends come to life.

In the association’s recent What’s In Store podcast, Heather Prach, IDDBA’s vice president of education, introduced the IDDBA five Guiding Trends for 2023 which are designed around sensory experiences.  One of those guiding trends is the ABC’s of ESG, which will be the partner of DEI.

“We are all here to meet and exceed consumer demand,” Atkins said. “In my mind, that includes internal and external stakeholders and thus the partnership of DEI and ESG now and into the future.”