Yara: Now a ‘Leading Light’ in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, organisations pledged billions of dollars to move the DEI agenda forward. However, we’ve seen very few organisations actually change as a result of these at times empty gestures.

Yara International is one notable exception. This global, 17,500-strong organisation, which reports revenues of $24 billion, has a crucial mission – to develop the knowledge required to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet, through collaborative leadership and integrated, science-based solutions.

The Challenge: Moving From Base Level DEI to ‘Beyond Awareness’

As you might expect from such a globally aware organisation, Yara is extremely diverse, with a broad racial profile and employees spanning 60 countries. As we see so often in forward-thinking organisations like Yara, the need for change was first identified by internal disruptors: Fernanda Lopes Larsen and Anika Jovik. Fernanda and Anika were both Black women in senior positions at Yara, with shared lived experience. They felt strongly that if they didn’t use their voice to challenge the status quo and inspire progress, nothing would change.

Crucially, Yara’s CEO, Sven Tore Holsether, took a clear position:

“At Yara there is zero tolerance for racism or discrimination of any kind. Our commitment and social contract drive us to work for a better world, with inclusive growth for the many rather than wealth accumulated by the few”.

The Solution: Partnering With Experts To Enact Lasting Change

Things began to move forward at a pace. Senior leaders at Yara recognised that they needed an expert partner to help the organisation to work towards maturing its approach to Race diversity, equity and inclusion and become the change they wanted to lead across their industry.

We immediately sought to establish a deep understanding of Yara’s systems and get a feel for the DEI culture within the company – specifically through the lenses of race and intersectionality.

With board level buy-in for our partnership in place, we looked at every aspect of race at Yara. Our initial objective was to build a leading-edge, global strategy for race, which covered all plants, offices, functions, and regions.

To achieve this, and help Yara to understand where they were, we used a number of different tools and proven approaches to gauge whether Yara had the right conditions to become a high-performing inclusive organisation.

We conducted a comprehensive race equality audit of Yara’s relevant policy and practices, and the lived experience of Black talent, at both a global level and with a regional focus on Europe, the United States, Brazil and South Africa. This was a large task, covering all aspects of the employee lifecycle, and involving 48 stakeholder interviews and 7 focus groups around the world. We assessed the results against our DEI Maturation Model.

With the whole senior leadership team united behind a shared vision, we consolidated the extensive intelligence and insight we had gathered through the audit and used it to plan and implement a series of bespoke, transformative interventions, right across the organisation, including a HR programme specifically designed to embed DEI change into Yara’s HR people, processes and systems.

We also delivered:

  • 1-2-1 Borderless Executive Coaching to the CEO and all the members of the management board,
  • a comprehensive Borderless Leadership Programme for the 200 most senior leaders across Yara;
  • a Black Leadership Development Programme to 80 Black leaders based in 15+ different countries around the world; and
  • a DEI Development programme to over 70 HR practitioners in the Yara Europe and Yara Americas regions

During these sessions, we were able to respond directly to the problems we had uncovered during the audit, again turning them into tangible points of change for each region and function.

“It was important for us to look at what was happening at an individual level, as well as working to create systemic change. To do this, we focused our work on personal reinvention as well as leadership impact.”

The Result: A Leading Light of Diversity in Their Industry

There is never a simple, one-size-fits-all solution to DEI. Every organisation is unique in the barriers they face and the race issues they experience. Despite starting with only a very basic DEI structure in place, with our focused help and support, Yara were able to transform into a more racially aware organisation with a sophisticated, people-led approach that sets them above the rest.

Three years after The Diversity Practice began working with Yara, the company has moved further along the Maturation Index and is now a leading light for diversity, equity and inclusion in their industry.

“The transformative work and collaborative approach with Diversity Practice have been instrumental in upskilling our organization, propelling us toward the goal of becoming an antiracist entity. Their unparalleled expertise and innovative methodology played a pivotal role in the success of our Black Talent Initiative.

Initiating with an awareness campaign, we began vital conversations about race within the organization, paving the way for the subsequent capability-building chapter focused on race. This journey included equipping our executive members through Borderless coaching training, upskilling our HR professionals globally to become DEI Change Makers, and empowering our black leaders through the implementation of the Global Black Leader Development Program.”

To find out how The Diversity Practice can help your organisation to develop its approach to DEI, move beyond borders, and bring about vital systemic change, please get in touch.

We’ll be sharing more of our team’s insights over the coming months, keep checking back to see our latest thinking…