Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: What it means to me and SmartestEnergy #SmartestBalance

One of SmartestEnergy's ambitions is to be a company that embeds a culture focused on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). To ensure we build an accepting and enjoyable workplace for all, we established our 'Smartest Balance' initiative. In the first blog of our #SmartestBalance series, James Graham, VP of Sales and Marketing, shares his motivations for volunteering to chair the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Group (EDISG), as well as explaining our strategic goals for Smartest Balance.

The Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Group (EDISG) was founded in 2021 by our CEO and is made up of a group of volunteer senior-level managers with the shared responsibility for the development and delivery of SmartestEnergy's EDI agenda. This is underpinned by our strategic initiative called Smartest Balance. Smartest Balance will benefit all employees and our company as a whole; an equal, diverse workplace offers a more effective and enjoyable place to work, where people can bring their best selves to work and perform excellently, and I am passionate about my role in making this happen.

The Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Group support the delivery of our strategic EDI plans, providing direction for our Community Champion Steering Groups, which encompass our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), LGBTQ+ and Women in Energy Communities.

Ahead of our first SmartestBalance networking event, which takes place on the 27th April, I wanted to share my story. As a straight, white male in my 40s, I am not the demographic that you may expect diversity programmes to directly support, nor am I able to provide the unique insight that comes from belonging to the communities that our Champion Steering Group represents, but I was keen to put myself forward. I strongly believe that everyone should have an equal chance to succeed and receive recognition for their achievements, and we have a collective responsibility to address obstacles to this where we can.

From an early age, my Mum, who taught English as a foreign language to many different ethnicities, tried to give me perspective on the difficulties many people faced and an understanding that I was in a position of privilege. This has always stayed with me, but it wasn't until I left home and my circle grew that it became much more apparent that I didn't appreciate the extent of the adversity that many had experienced and the lasting impacts. I cannot claim to understand the experience that other communities have had, but I hope, through participating in Smartest Balance, I will get a chance to learn what I, and the company, can do differently to help deliver on our ambitions.

In 2020, I took my daughter to the Black Lives Matter protests in Brighton and felt inspired by the passion and energy that came from the marchers. I am ashamed to say I don't remember this level of activism when I was younger, but these protests and many others have been a powerful reminder of the necessity for change. We shouldn't sit back and leave it to the activists, we can all play our part in some way, and SmartestBalance is already making a change.

A strategic plan and supporting road map underpin the progress already made by Smartest Balance, including a full review of our family-friendly policies; enhanced inclusive recruitment processes; a full review and upgrade of our careers page and D&I training; and becoming an active member of the Women's Utilities Network (WUN). Next Wednesday, we are hosting our first networking event in collaboration with the WUN, and I am looking forward to hearing the career stories from female leaders across the utilities sector and supporting their mentoring scheme, empowering women in a sector that can often be seen to be dominated by men.

Anyone is welcome at our first SmartestBalance networking event this Wednesday. There'll be inspirational talks from female leaders in the utilities sector, cocktails, charcuterie boards, and a great opportunity for you to broaden your professional network. Find out more and register here.