The British Diversity Awards took place on Thursday 10 March, sponsored by luxury global brand Burberry

The inaugural awards were hosted by TV presenter and diversity specialist June Sarpong OBE in London’s iconic Grand Connaught Rooms. Representatives from a wide range of corporations, businesses, community groups and charities came to together to honour the very best of British diversity.

CEO and Founder of the British Diversity Awards, Linda Riley said, “The awards shine a light on the individuals, organisations, charities and unsung heroes who help to make the world and workplaces a better place for others across all strands of diversity. In a world where hate and division is being sown in some quarters, we believe that by continuing to celebrate Equality, Diversity and Inclusion we can help make the UK and indeed the universe a better place to live and work for everyone.”

With thousands of nominations across 18 categories, the shortlist was whittled down to an amazing 125 deserving nominees and over 600 guests turned out to help support and celebrate them on the night. To help with the party atmosphere 1970s Queens of Lovers Rock, Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson wowed the audience with a fabulous performance before the awards began.

After opening addresses by Linda Riley and Burberry’s Chief People Officer, Erica Bourne, the ceremony got underway with a heartfelt keynote speech delivered by the politician and women’s rights campaigner, Rabina Khan, who held the room spellbound.

The first award of the night, Campaigner of the Year, sponsored by DAM Health, went to Sophia Moreau for her fight against ableism, racism and maternity discrimination. Then came the Cultural Intelligence Centre’s award for the Supplier Diversity Programme of the Year. This was won by NatWest for their work connecting small businesses to larger businesses, opening up supply chain opportunities.

Next to receive an award was Danyelle Holmes-Lewis, taking home the Ruebik HR Champion of the Year accolade for her work in raising aspirations and empowering her BT colleagues. Scooping the award in the Imperial Brands Social Mobility Initiative of the Year category was law firm Browne Jacobson for their game changing FAIRE initiative. Diversity Team of the Year, sponsored by GSK, was won by Springer Nature, who are spearheading the charge in championing transformative initiatives in the publishing industry.

Then came the highly coveted Charity of the Year award, sponsored by Burberry; the headline sponsor generously donated an incredible £10,000 to the successful charity. And the winner was Galop, the LGBTQI anti-abuse charity who have been championing the needs and safety of the LGBT+ community for almost 40 years. Their moving acceptance speech underlined just how much this win and donation would mean to them.

Taking home the Playtech Marketing Campaign of the Year prize on behalf of ITV and Scope for their brilliant ‘Invisible Disabilities’ campaign, was Paul Fuller and his guide-dog Bolt, who took the attention and noisy celebrations in his stride. Perhaps the most moving moment of the night came when the Attest Lifetime Achievement Award was announced and Peter Tatchell received a richly deserved standing ovation in tribute to his decades’ long fight for LGBTQI rights across the globe.

The next award to be handed over was the Veolia Community Project of the Year, won by the London Black Women’s Project (LBWP) for their outstanding work protecting, promoting and developing the rights and resources of women and children from BME communities in London.

The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust Outstanding Network Group of the Year was won by WPP for their newly established LGBTQ+ community employee network, Unite. The next category was the special Global Recognition Award for Diversity which went to Westlife musician and long-standing LGBT+ rights champion Mark Feehily for his recent, prominent work campaigning to change Irish surrogacy laws.

Speaking later Mark commented, “This is an incredible honour and the most meaningful award I have collected in my career. I mean, I've won awards for my music and awards with Westlife but this is something very special. I am proud and I hope it goes some way towards highlighting the issues still faced by LGBT+ families who want to start families of their own. There is still a lot to do and our work will not stop until we have achieved full equality.”

Then Jacqui McKenzie took home the Boots Hero of the Year award for her inspirational legal work specialising in immigration and civil rights cases, most notably helping those impacted by the Windrush scandal.

Next up was the award for Inspirational Role Model of the Year, sponsored by Lockton LLP. The judges had a difficult time deciding on one winner in this category so decided to honour two winners. The first was Pips Bunce of Credit Suisse, recognised for championing LGBTQI+ inclusion and equality. And the second, I. Stephanie Boyce, the first woman of colour to be President of the Law Society of England and Wales, was honoured for her dedication to changing the face of the law and championing diversity.

The 10x Banking Head of Diversity went to Zaheer Ahmad of GSK for his passionate and inspirational diversity and inclusion leadership. And 10x Banking accepted the Diversity in Technology award, sponsored by DeNovo Legal Services, for their work empowering, connecting and advancing women in the tech industry.

As the ceremony drew to a close there were only three more categories to be announced. The National Grid Diversity Champion of the Year award was won by Ian Donaldson, thanks, in no small part, to his incredible charitable initiative, ‘Football For Change’, which brings together sports stars and business leaders to help young people get into education or find employment opportunities. And for their work creating a culture where team members thrive, Boots took home the much sought-after Company of the Year award, sponsored by Barratt Developments. 

The judges said of Boots: "The judging panel were impressed by Boots dedication and commitment to driving Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, both by creating an inclusive workplace for each and every team member and also in improving the retail experience for their customers. Boots acknowledgment of the importance of intersectionality and inclusive traits, while also investing in strategic partnerships to support their DEI agenda, demonstrated their long-term conviction. By developing targeted interventions to improve the lived experience, such as their integrated plan for World Menopause Day, as well as Inclusive Leadership modules for senior leaders; are absolutely integral to creating an inclusive workplace where all team members feel they belong. As the leading healthcare retailer, the judging panel recognised the enormous impact Boots has on their customer base and in turn local communities; such as the introduction of skin tone plasters and dedicated products for Afro-Caribbean hair. Furthermore, by using their marketing platforms to promote LGBTQ+ rights, Boots impressed the judges in their outstanding commitment to driving social justice for all”

The final category of the night was Diversity Champion in the Public Eye, sponsored by Sedulo. Eight celebrities vied for this honour and once more the judges couldn’t pick one winner so two awards were conferred. The first went to Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock for her support of LGBTQI rights and her anti-racism stance. And the second to footballing legend and pundit Jamie Carragher, for his inspirational work helping disadvantaged children via his ‘The 23 Foundation’, and more recently promoting social mobility through the ‘Football for Change’ charity.

And that brought the ceremony to an end; 20 well-deserved winners, 14 highly commended and 125 nominees across 18 categories. Everyone left the venue on a high after a fantastic night honouring and celebrating British diversity at its best. Erica Bourne of Burberry summed up the evening: “The ceremony has been a true celebration of inspiring individuals, highlighting the incredible contributions from both winners and nominees to creating an inclusive world. Their stories showcase the power of coming together, overcoming adversity and standing up for real change. We are grateful to all the judges, organisers, teams and guests for being part of this memorable event and hope these awards will empower many others to use their voice to champion progress.”