Q&A: P&G’s Damon Jones on the key role of diversity in a business strategy

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Q&A: P&G’s Damon Jones on the key role of diversity in a business strategy

12/23/2019

Damon Jones, vice president of global communications and advocacy at Procter & Gamble, said that the company has made a strong commitment to advancing social and environmental causes. And, he noted, company officials want to use their position in the retail industry to further these causes. Jones sat down with DSN to talk about what P&G is doing and how it has thus far impacted retail.  

Drug Store News: What does it mean when P&G says, it’s “a force for good and a force for growth?” What does that include?

Damon Jones: Beyond delivering superior products, making meaningful societal contributions is an integral part of how we run P&G — and one that has a direct impact on our bottom line. We believe doing good is good business. Consumers not only expect, but reward brands that advance social and environmental causes. These actions build trust and drive loyalty that set P&G, our brands and our leaders apart.

Like all areas at P&G, this approach is validated by real-life experience. Compelling, authentic, values-based communication builds brands. Always, through their “Like a Girl” campaign, grew sales, share and brand equity. Secret continues to see business growth behind its efforts to drive women’s equality. SKII, P&G’s fastest growing brand, has led numerous efforts to tackle societal taboos in a way that has engendered consumer love in multiple countries around the world.

Drug Store News: Tell us more about your diversity and inclusion commitments. What do they consist of? What are some recent key initiatives? 

DJ: At P&G, we aspire to create a world free from bias with equal representation and full inclusion of all people regardless of race, gender, ability, identity or religion. A core focus of that work is raising awareness of bias, both individually and systemically, across many areas, including media, education and health care.  

Once we’re aware of bias, we can do something about it. With that in mind, we’re using our talents as storytellers and our voice as a leading advertiser to inspire people to reflect on these issues, have constructive conversations, challenge their own biases and become advocates for change.  

One of our current efforts is focused on racial bias. Our short film, “The Look,” (talkaboutbias.com) illustrates conscious and unconscious bias as experienced by black men. It’s a provocative campaign that challenges people to rethink stereotypes of black men and builds empathy for all people who are sometimes seen as “other.” Using the film, we’re creating forums for understanding across the country and online.

Gender equality is another area of focus. We’re tackling gender bias in advertising and media by ensuring fair and accurate portrayal of women — and all people. Too often, women are inaccurately portrayed through stereotyping, objectification or diminished characters. We can shift this by setting a positive example in our own content, and by leading efforts across the industry to ensure more women have leadership roles behind the camera.

To do it, we’re fueling efforts like Free the Work and See All 2020, which connects women and under-represented minority directors, producers and other artists in advertising and entertainment, ensuring their talent and potential are not overlooked. We’ve also committed that half of P&G’s television commercials will be directed by women in the next few years — a very tangible goal that will lead to even more compelling content and greater economic inclusion.

P&G is also helping to remove barriers to women’s economic empowerment and girls’ education. We do this by spending with women-owned businesses, partnering with UN Women to support women entrepreneurs around the world, helping the Sesame Workshop develop programing, and through the Always Keeping Girls in School program.  

Of course, all these efforts are built on a foundation of doing the right thing every day in our own house:  paying men and women equally for equal work and performance; recruiting and developing employees from all walks of life; and ensuring an inclusive environment that embraces the individuality we each bring to our work.

Drug Store News: How do your retail partners benefit from this?

DJ: Everyone benefits from a more equal world. If women, blacks and Latinos were paid equally, our economies would have hundreds of millions more in spending power. And that’s not just good for society in general, it’s especially beneficial for companies like P&G and others in our industry. It will also lead to stronger communities and more creative, diverse and innovative workplaces.

Retailers are large advertisers and can benefit from the insights and resources we’re developing through initiatives like the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing. This will help enable them to create more compelling advertising that resonates with diverse audiences, tapping into markets that have significant spending power — Target, Ulta and Walmart are already members.

Drug Store News: How would you like to see other manufacturers get involved? 

DJ: There is no standard playbook. Everyone needs to find their own voice and use it authentically. Not every brand can engage on every issue. Public advocacy must be grounded in true commitment from senior leadership and linked to the values and long-term goals of the organization. 

It’s also about progress, not perfection. For example, P&G is committed to 50/50 representation of men and women throughout our organization. While we’re making progress, we’re just closing in on 48%. We’re not letting that 2% get in the way of our advocacy, but we’re also transparent about our goals, our plans and our commitment. Consumers and stakeholders recognize and appreciate that transparency.

Inclusion is fundamentally about cooperation, not competition. We’re a part of many groups where companies can collaborate and learn from one another. One of them is the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, a coalition of leading organizations that are committed to sharing insights from their diversity and inclusion journeys for broad learning.

Drug Store News: What is next for P&G in this space?

DJ: Building further on our racial equality efforts, we’re highlighting bias that exists in our justice systems where poor, over-policed communities suffer disproportionately from discriminatory practices, such as money bail. This system penalizes unconvicted individuals and their families and communities simply because they cannot afford to pay bail, perpetuating poverty cycles. Working with organizations like Global Citizen and Color Of Change, we’re drawing attention through documentary films and other actions that will change this system.  

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