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The charity making life better by water

Stronger Together - Our inclusion and diversity strategy 2023-26

We're the charity who look after and bring to life 2,000 miles of waterways, because we believe that life is better by water.

Chief Executive’s Foreword

At the Trust we care passionately for our waterways, and as importantly, for those who look after and use them. I strongly believe that a diverse workforce brings with it a diversity of ideas, thinking and ways of working which enhances what we do as a Trust. It also increases our ability to engage with the diverse communities in which we operate.

Richard Parry, chief executive

To be able to deliver our vision of living waterways that transform places and enrich lives, everyone who works here or volunteers with us must be able to be themselves, performing at their best, free from any pressure to conform or be different from how they are. Then we can unlock our full potential, achieve greater impact and earn the confidence, trust, and advocacy of those that use the waterways, whether boaters, anglers, canoeists, paddle-boarders, walkers or cyclists.

We therefore need to create the most inclusive environment that we can, where colleagues and volunteers feel valued, respected, trusted, and feel that their voices are heard.

And that is why I am proud that we are publishing our first inclusion and diversity strategy, setting out our ambition for where we want to get to as a charity.

I truly believe we are Stronger Together.

Where are we now?

Our vision and values

Our Vision – living waterways, transform places and enrich lives.

Our canals and rivers connect many diverse communities across England and Wales. It is an essential part of our vision that we provide every opportunity we can for people to get involved and play their role in caring for, and using, our canals and towpaths.

Our Values are how we do things in the Trust and lay the foundation for what we care about the most. They provide a purpose for all colleagues and volunteers to understand, work towards, and live by.

One of our values is Inclusive - We create an environment of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome. We collaborate with a diverse range of people to increase impact and thrive.

Our People

Our people are our biggest asset, without whom we couldn’t look after those 2000 miles of waterways. We have around 1800 colleagues and 4000 active volunteers.

31% of colleagues are female, but our data shows that only 5% of colleagues are from a minority ethnic background, and only 2% of colleagues are disabled.

28% of our volunteers are female, 1.4% are from a minority ethnic background, and 9% of volunteers are disabled.

Our latest mean gender pay gap calculation is -3.6%.

Whilst our gender pay gap is to be celebrated, we acknowledge that we are at the start of our inclusion journey, and are not as diverse as we would like to be.

This strategy describes the approach we are taking at the Trust to work towards a fully inclusive organisation.

Successes over the last 18 months

Set up new inclusion circles (colleague networks) and reinvigorated existing ones, so that we now have 11.

Introduced an Inclusion and Diversity information hub on our intranet to engage colleagues (which we will continue to build on).

Renewed our Disability Confident accreditation until 2024.

As part of our challenge to increase gender representation we have launched a pilot of our first ever women in leadership apprenticeship programme in partnership with Raise the Bar (a leading learning and development consultancy).

Introduced a new measure to help us understand our inclusion culture and inform our plans.

Benchmarked our progress in becoming a more diverse and inclusive employer and were proud to be awarded Inclusive Employer Silver Accreditation. The feedback we received has helped shape this Strategy.

Where do we want to be?

Our aspiration in ten years

We will celebrate difference and have an inclusive environment that welcomes diverse cultures and groups, diversity of thought, and values everyone.

Woman facing away from camera, hands held up and holding microphone

Inclusion and diversity will be at the heart of everything we do and deliver.

We will have more diverse talent working for and volunteering with us so that we have a greater range of voices informing our work.

We will have an environment that reflects our values, acting when confronted with intolerance, so that we embrace inclusion and diversity in all our interactions with colleagues, volunteers, customers, visitors, suppliers, contractors, and in the communities that we serve.

Our waterways will be open, accessible, and attractive places for all the communities around us, so that everyone is welcome and our customers, users and visitors reflect the diversity of those communities with no perceived barriers or obstacles.

Our customers and visitors will be at the very heart of what we do, providing accessible services, treating customers with respect, and learning from feedback.

We will measure our progress through our engagement survey and KPIs to demonstrate our progress and capture return on investment. We will be ‘stronger together’.

How will we achieve this?

In the next three years, we will:

Strengthen our leadership by supporting leaders to embed inclusion and diversity across the Trust. We will do this by:

  • Increasing their accountability for the behaviours, culture, and representation in their teams, through improving our performance processes.
  • Building their awareness, capability, and confidence, through inclusive leadership development.
  • Improving their decision making, informed by insight through improving the customer feedback loop and enhancing use of equality impact assessments

Foster a culture of inclusion and belonging that welcomes and celebrates different cultures, groups, and thinking, and values each individual. We will do this by:

  • Implementing development opportunities and support networks for under-represented groups.
  • Understanding the experiences of colleagues and volunteers from minority groups through research so that we understand what we need to improve.
  • Reviewing our people policies and practices to ensure they are welcoming, inclusive, and fair to all.

Build more representation in the workforce that is reflective of our customers and the communities around us. We will do this by:

  • Increasing our brand awareness through improved web content and accessibility and making our recruitment practices more inclusive.
  • Improving our systems and processes for collecting and providing insight from our people data.
  • Enhancing our approach to flexible working, and ensure the approach is embedded consistently across the Trust.

Delivery Programme

We have a programme in place to deliver this strategy. Over the 3 years (2023 – 2026) we will be looking to improve and develop in the following areas:

  • Governance and accountability
  • Living our values
  • People policies
  • Learning and development
  • Procurement
  • Customer
  • Reward
  • Resourcing
  • People data
  • Brand

For more information and to offer any feedback, please email [email protected]

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Last Edited: 22 February 2024

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