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Diversity is Strength

Diversity and Inclusion Committee meets virtually

From Richard Kouwenhoven, President of Hemlock Printers

It has been 6 months since massive protests erupted across the US, Canada and around the world in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd Jr. It was a galvanizing moment which exposed the reality that systemic racism, in all aspects of our society, continues to oppress Black, Indigenous and People of Colour on a daily basis.

The protests, and the political and cultural attention they garnered, inspired deep reflection for many of us, along with a determination to be active participants in making the changes that are necessary. These include: elevating the fight against racism in all its forms; acknowledging and addressing historical and persistent injustices which impact marginalized communities; and taking positive steps to build a more diverse, inclusive and equitable society.

In June 2020, on behalf of our ownership, management and staff, I posted an article to our blog “A Moment for Reflection. A Time for Action” affirming our recognition of these deep-rooted problems and recognizing that as a business and a community, we have a role to play to address these persistent injustices.

I would like to report on the steps we have taken since our communication from last summer as we work to further embed the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion within our company.

In July, we invited staff from across the company to participate in a newly formed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. A team of 10 volunteer staff members from different areas of our business and from diverse backgrounds began meeting at the end of July to discuss initiatives and actions Hemlock could undertake as a business.

Our committee began meeting monthly and in November transitioned to bi-weekly to help us make steady progress on our plans. The committee has brainstormed a number of high value projects which we will be implementing throughout 2021 and beyond.

Currently active projects include:

  1. Authoring a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statement. This is an important first step which will provide our management team, our committee and our staff with clear context and guidance to help us prioritize our initiatives for years to come. This statement will be published in our Employee Handbook, prominently displayed within our facilities and posted to our website in the coming weeks.
  2. Conducting a Staff Survey. Our intention is to poll our staff on the core issues around diversity, equity and inclusion, soliciting confidential feedback on their thoughts on the issues, as well as where the organization is doing well and where there are opportunities for improvement. The feedback from staff will help us define and prioritize our initiatives in 2021 and beyond.
  3. Developing a Diverse Supervisory and Management Team. One clear goal we have identified is to determine ways to expand the diversity of Hemlock’s supervisory and management teams. This will involve implementing strategies to support and develop Hemlock’s future leaders which are guided by clearly stated, long-term objectives promoting employee diversity at all levels within our organization. Our first step is to update and improve our annual performance management process to better identify staff who are interested in pursuing leadership roles within the business. These changes will be incorporated within our 2021 Performance Management Process, starting in February.

It is clear from the enthusiasm and passion of our newly formed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee that this group will be helping Hemlock make significant strides in 2021. We look forward to providing a further update on our progress later this year. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us with your ideas or feedback.


Richard Kouwenhoven