• GL
Choose your location?
  • Global Global
  • Australian flag Australia
  • French flag France
  • German flag Germany
  • Irish flag Ireland
  • Italian flag Italy
  • Polish flag Poland
  • Qatar flag Qatar
  • Spanish flag Spain
  • UAE flag UAE
  • UK flag UK

Consumer Trends 2024: Employee activism is on the rise - are you ready for it?

23 January 2024

Well-being, culture and working conditions will be high on agenda for leadership, as employees put more focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. This trend is prominent in the Consumer sector, where people are at the heart of sustainable performance and growth. 

We have recently seen a number of instances reported in the public domain, where employees are holding Consumer sector organisations they work for accountable for their actions or, in some cases, inactions on a range of environmental, social and governance issues. This has taken the form of strikes, calls for leadership action and/or walkouts, for example, regarding pay and working conditions. 

This rise of employee activism groups is being spurred on by the use of social media to galvanise momentum and expedite action that is targeted and disruptive to businesses. Many of these actions are related to organisational culture, ways of working and behaviours in the workplace. Increased expectations, and lower tolerance thresholds, are key drivers behind many of the collective actions being taken by employees.

Leaders in the Consumer sector cannot afford to be complacent. Culture is an essential component of an effective sustainable business strategy and a critical lever of performance. Culture can be viewed as a collection of choices and behaviours central to business decision-making. To create mutually beneficial outcomes, which drive financial and non-financial value creation over the long-term, it is necessary to identify desired behaviours linked to your organisation's values and purpose. This is what gives you the social licence to operate, and one that is increasingly likely to be challenged - not only by external stakeholders, but by your own employees as well. It is for this reason that employee engagement will be key in 2024 across the Consumer sector.

People and Culture matter

What does this mean for organisations who wish to optimise the value of human capital and create long-term value? Companies cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to investment in people and culture. More so than ever, the need to empower employees to have a voice by creating psychological safety and inclusion in the workplace needs to be aligned to business objectives and delivered in the context of what is happening in the real world, where social instability and uncertainty are prevalent.

Also read our insight 'Creating a fearless workplace'.

The World Economic Forum has identified embedding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a business priority and that leadership is critical in that process. They have also identified five practical steps that organisations, including those in the Consumer sector, can take to unlock human capital as an asset that creates value, and brings dignity to the workplace. The steps included:

  1. Engage – by creating committed leaders aligned to DEI values.
  2. Diagnose – by rooting your DEI strategy in evidence, data and analytics.
  3. Act – by integrating DEI into policies, practices and programmes.
  4. Be accountable – by setting and measuring progress through DEI goals.
  5. Approach DEI through the lens of change management and communications.
    (Source: Five ways to drive social justice in the workplace | World Economic Forum (weforum.org) )

Looking ahead

In 2024, we will see a heightened focus on culture and behaviour from external stakeholders, and increased pressure from employees on holding leaders to account on workplace conditions and ways of working. Culture audits, which deliver an independent review of behaviours and values being lived and breathed at work, are critical tools to assess whether your culture is desirable or whether it is, in fact, masking pockets of poor conduct and toxic behaviour. There will be an even greater need for a focus on employee mental health and well-being, and an increased demand for companies to provide opportunities for open dialogue, social impact and active listening.

One thing is certain: if employees do not feel valued or listened to at work, or they feel excluded due to cultural norms and systemic behaviours that are divisive and isolating, then beware of the outcomes. The trend for employee activism means the response is unlikely to be a quiet one. 

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these topics, including how you can fully embrace sustainability in your business strategy, please contact DWF's Sustainable Business and ESG Advisory Practice.   

Back to hub
Click here to return back to the Sustainability in focus hub.
Interested in more similar content?
Register to receive our regular sector and legal insights directly to your inbox.