Race Equality Matters is pleased to announce that Sutton Council have been awarded Silver Trailblazer status!


Sutton London Borough Council have demonstrated that they are dedicated to fuelling continuous momentum when it comes to tackling Race inequality. Judging panellists felt Sutton Council’s application was strong  across all of the Silver Trailblazer criteria and observed that as an organisation they had been “brave and proactive in their approach.” The activities shared (reverse mentoring, events, data collection etc) provided substantial evidence of commitment, engagement, endorsement and support particularly from their senior leadership. 100% of judging panellists their application had demonstrated evidence of continued action in tackling racial inequality since achieving Bronze status, with the strongest area being the impact these actions had.


Actions and initiatives


Senior leader buy-in

Trailblazer judging panellists unanimously agreed that having the Chief Executive committed and active in the race equality and general EDI work being done at Sutton Council was what “stood out most”. Their Chief executive is the sponsor for their Multi Ethnic Action Plan Working Group and introduced the first ‘Conversations With’ event to state the importance of EDI within the organisation. Their EDI model functions on receiving regular feedback from key stakeholders, which includes senior management. Additionally, the Chief Executive continues to attend their monthly Multi-Ethnic Action Plan Working Group, in which they discuss EDI actions relating to addressing racial inequality and promoting race equality. Senior management continue to give input into discussions over upcoming actions and suggest where they can help to socialise the initiatives from a ‘top-down’ perspective/approach.


Diverse interviewing panels


Launched in January 2022, they aim to have female and multi-ethnic colleagues present in each interview panel where possible.


EDI objectives in appraisals


In staff appraisals last year, it was mandatory that an EDI objective had to be agreed by every employee to aim towards for the next working year. They wanted to introduce this at a time where their organisation is demonstrating growth and maturity towards race equality, and so this was viewed in a non-arbitrary way. These ensure all staff across the business consider how their work can contribute towards race equality and further demonstrating allyship.


Introducing inclusive language and icons guides


Sutton Council also introduced an Inclusive language guide, available to all staff. Their application described that these  guides are a useful resource for reference when networking or communicating to groups and creating communications pieces as well as to educate staff on how they can be more inclusive. They are often used by staff when creating both internal and external communication pieces.


Launching the Aspiring Leaders & Aspiring Managers Programme


They also launched an Aspiring Managers programme which is aimed at colleagues that are not yet in management roles, while Aspiring Leaders is aimed at middle managers thinking about Head of Service roles as their next step. Both career development programmes prioritise applications from multi ethnic colleagues. Their Corporate Management Team (CMT) endorsed both programmes, even presenting to the cohort on career development topics as part of the experience and attending final presentations for participants, demonstrating their active engagement.


Continuing their reverse mentoring scheme


Senior leaders and managers also take part in a Reverse Mentoring program where they are mentored by another colleague from across the organisation, from a diversity and inclusion perspective. They have had four cohorts so far take part in this scheme. This assists with their learning and understanding as an organisation, as initiatives such as these are designed to appeal to different colleagues who may be at variable stages of their race equality/ EDI journey.


Impact and Ethnically diverse Staff Endorsement


Sutton Council received a lot of positive feedback directly from ethnically diverse staff about the work they are doing, showing real impact and change in the right direction. Examples include:


  • Some ethnically diverse colleagues said that they would endorse the activities they undertook to promote race equality, as they are “an opportunity to finally recognise and appreciate” the council’s diverse workforce and that the approach to this “has developed awareness of others’ cultural preferences”
  • Colleagues expressed how they are comfortable sharing their experiences through their active engagement within our staff networks
  • In response to short surveys sent out, staff have said that “personally they have developed a much better awareness” of race equality and the actions as an organisation have “brought awareness and understanding of issues related to race” to the forefront
  • From anonymous feedback received, ethnically-diverse colleagues have commented that “those who attended any events have gained more awareness and can work with others with a better understanding of difference”
  • Engagement levels are monitored through attendance figures to Network Events, EDI Events and Livestreams and the feedback provided by colleagues is less quantitative and more qualitative. Consistent attendance showed staff’s willingness to join and participate of their own accord
  • 52 Aspiring Managers and Leaders joined the first two cohorts of their pilot programme
  • 85% of employees have shared their ethnicity data
  • From a senior leadership buy-in perspective, it has been commented on how having senior leadership speaking and actioning on topics of race equality has helped to socialise this throughout


Feedback from an Ethnically Diverse Panel


Our Trailblazer panellists said that Sutton Council’s application showed “clear growth in activity since achieving Bronze Trailblazer status” and they all said there was a “strong commitment to evolving the culture through data informed activity and collaboration with senior leadership and the HR & Organisational Development team.” One commented that they had “a strong leadership approach and buy-in, including incorporating key DEI objectives into their corporate plan which will help embed it as a valued culture.” In fact, senior leader endorsement, especially from the CEO, received consistent praise from all judges.


Judges also mentioned Sutton Council’s “acknowledgement and activities addressing the importance of intersectionality” as truly impactful. Even further, the effective career development programmes,reverse mentoring,commitment to opening difficult conversations as well as their  data collection to inform decisions have been identified by panellists as standout points worthy of achieving Silver Trailblazer status. Another panellist also positively commented on the transparency in ethnically diverse staff pay.


Next Steps…


In addition to continuing the great work they are currently doing, a few of Sutton Council’s future plans include:


  • Each DMT (Directorate Management Teams) will have an ‘EDI Champion’ who will attend, make input and feedback on issues/comments arising relating to EDI that are discussed
  • There will be further mandatory training and learning
  • They are in the process of signing up to London Councils Tackling Inequality Charter
  • They aim to create a behavioural framework surround theirPRIDE values (People-Focused/ Responsible/ Innovative/ Diverse/ Enterprising) which will be socialised and embedded across our council over time
  • Facilitate ‘safe space conversations’, through exploring the impact of racialised trauma. These sessions will raise awareness of the possible impacts of racial trauma on an employee, what allies can do to support colleagues, and to provide a safe space for colleagues who wish to share their experiences with a qualified facilitator


Follow Sutton Council’s Lead: Become a Trailblazer

If your organisation is driving change for Race Equality and you can demonstrate impact, endorsement from ethnically diverse employees and share future plans; register your interest for the next round of trailblazers.

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