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Diversity & Inclusion in the Worshipful Company of Distillers

This year we celebrate the 350th Anniversary of being granted our Livery status by the Aldermen of the City of London Corporation in 1672.   As we look to the future and achieving our stated ambition to be at the “Heart of the Industry”, we want to reflect and celebrate its evolution and ensure that we are a representative and inclusive Livery Company. One that is fit for purpose for the next 350 years.

This work is not unique to us and, indeed, The Lord Mayor and The City of London Corporation have increasingly been encouraging Livery companies to focus on diversity and inclusion to assist in building a City of London fit for the future.   Many of you will know that this is also a strategic priority for companies across our industry, from family businesses to PLCs.

It is clear from the work that we have recently carried out that we have much to do in improving diversity and inclusion across our Company.   Our members have, like many livery companies, historically been predominately male, and mostly white.   Whilst at one time this may have been representative of our industry, it is increasingly not the case and it is clear that we must become more representative of our vibrant and dynamic spirits industry.

Following a review in May 2022 by the Master & Wardens Committee, the Company has created a Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Working Group to focus on this important area.   The D&I group is chaired by Karen Betts, who has recently joined the Livery.  Karen is the current Chief Executive of the Food & Drink Federation and prior to this served as the CEO of The Scotch Whisky Association.  During Karen’s time with the SWA she was responsible for an extensive review of the broader industry’s approach to Diversity & Inclusion, and the adoption of an industry-wide Charter by the vast majority of Scotch Whisky companies.    Sitting alongside Karen on the working group are a broad group of members from across the Livery who have been tasked with a clear set of terms of reference to recommend change.

The first recommendation from the D&I Working Group, which was approved and adopted by the Court at its recent meeting in September, is the introduction of:

Both the Statement and the Conduct Protocol will be clearly published on our website and also made available to all existing members and new members of the company.

From this early work, it is clear that we must embrace a long-term commitment and meaningful change to Diversity & Inclusion.   The adoption of a D&I Statement and Conduct Protocol are just the first steps and there will be further outputs from the working group across a number of areas including governance, membership and events.   

We have a lot to be proud of in the Distillers.   We have energised and led the Livery world in many of our recent actions, not least in our charitable fundraising activities.   However, we must continue to be relevant and we must be representative of our industry.   Our aim is to be known for our open culture that is warm and welcoming.  Members, potential members and their guests should always feel comfortable and valued, with a true sense of belonging, irrespective of their background, sex, gender identity, marital status, sexual orientation, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, age, or disability.  There is simply no place for racism or any form of discrimination in our Company.

We have work to do but I know that, as we become more representative of the spirits industry of the 21st century and attract a broader, more diverse, membership, we will not only build on our successes to date but also ensure that we are fit for purpose long into the future.  

Chris Porter
Master 2022-2023