Barilla: An Italian Family-Owned Company’s Journey to Global Inclusion (Case Study)Jan 26, 2021
Barilla’s media and consumer storm of 2013 was a catalyst for culture change that ultimately engaged employees throughout the organization in all parts of the world. Chairman Guido Barilla had commented on a local radio show that same-sex couples would not be featured in the company’s advertising. From what could have been managed just as a PR issue, Barilla took responsibility and immediate action in order to start on a focused path of increased diversity and inclusion. Along the way, the company learned from mistakes and sought the expertise of others with the goal of becoming a role model for inclusion, not only for LGBTQ+ employees but for all underrepresented groups.
Leadership of the initiative starts at the top, driven throughout the organization by Chairman Guido Barilla and CEO Claudio Colzani. Increasing inclusion in Barilla is everyone’s responsibility, which is communicated across offices, plants, and sales forces around the world. The company’s public and unwavering commitment has inspired employees and made it clear that inclusion is a business imperative.
Barilla is a private and family-owned company, yet having no obligation to shareholders has not hindered their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts at all. Barilla’s inclusion work is truly motivated by passion and employee engagement, particularly through Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), whose leaders regularly connect with senior leadership and lead critical initiatives which drive increased inclusion. Barilla’s global work is customized to the needs of each region but maintains the common message that exclusion will not be tolerated, regardless of the local culture.
Highlights of Barilla’s commitment to inclusion:
- ERG empowerment to make change and raise the voices of underrepresented groups helps Barilla spread inclusion to more people.
- A D&I survey acts as an important vehicle for employees to communicate their needs and challenges regardless of their role or location. The Barilla D&I Board, senior leaders, and managers use the survey results to hear the voices of their employees and to develop key programs based on the specific needs of their business function, region, and culture. The survey also acts as a measure of progress on Barilla’s D&I metrics.
- Barilla’s work is global, even reaching regions where there may be cultural obstacles, such as acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community or people with disabilities.
- Barilla has achieved gender pay equality in 2020 globally for all employees. It was also one of the first companies in Italy to achieve many inclusion milestones, such as formalizing flexible working around the world and becoming the first Italian company to support the United Nations Standards of Conduct for Business Against LGBTQ+ Discrimination in the Workplace.
From 2013 to 2020, women’s representation increased in Barilla’s top band (direct reports to the CEO) from 8% to 28%. From 2014 to 2020, women’s representation also increased in the direct reports to the Global Leadership Team (Band 2) from 23% to 36%; direct reports to senior leaders (Band 3) from 40% to 47%; and all women in leadership positions globally increased from 33% to 38%.
Barilla is a family company, not listed on the stock exchange, chaired by brothers Guido, Luca and Paolo Barilla. It was founded by their great-grandfather, Pietro Barilla, who opened a bakery in Parma in 1877. Now, Barilla is famous in Italy and throughout the world for the excellence of its food products. With its brands–Barilla, Mulino Bianco, Pan di Stelle, Gran Cereale, Harrys, Pavesi, Wasa, Filiz, Yemina and Vesta, Misko, Voiello and Cucina Barilla–it promotes a tasty, joyful and healthy diet, inspired by the Mediterranean Diet and the Italian lifestyle.
When Pietro opened his store more than 140 years ago, his overriding aim was to make good food. Today, that principle has become Barilla’s way of doing business: “Good for You, Good for the Planet,” a slogan that expresses the daily commitment of the over 8,000 people who work for the company, and of a supply chain that shares its values and passion for quality.
“Good for You” means constantly improving the product offering, encouraging the adoption of healthy lifestyles and facilitating people’s access to food.
“Good for the Planet” means promoting sustainable supply chains and reducing CO2 emissions and water consumption.
Global Media Relations
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