Smiley Movement logo

Could CEO activists change business for good?

Words by Smiley Team

A group of CEOs from recognisable UK firms have joined forces in a bid to create a more diverse workforce throughout the country. 

The chief executives/SVPs of the Co-operative Group, M&S and PageGroup have founded the movement called CEO Activists, which will drive action to better engage and support all underrepresented groups within business.

Steve Murrells, Group CEO of the Co-operative Group; Steve Rowe, CEO of Marks and Spencer; and Steve Ingham, CEO of PageGroup, have also signed an open letter outlining how they want the pledge to be an action-orientated movement that will multiply its impact beyond their own workplaces.

"Diversity in the business environment is about more than gender, race and ethnicity," the pledge reads. "It includes employees with diverse religious and political beliefs, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, cultures and disabilities.

"Collectively as business leaders we agree that we must do more. For us, this means committing to four pledges we believe will drive further conversations and actions around diversity and inclusion within the workplace and create more collaboration among our companies."

[Read more positive news on Smiley Movement]

Their actions have already inspired other businesses to join, with leaders from nine other organisations making the same commitment. Alfa Financial Software, Fresenius Kabi, HH Global, IPSOS, Lexis Nexis, Lucky Generals, Rugby League World Cup, Superdrug and Unilever have all got involved. 

The CEO Activist Pledge focuses on four key areas:

  • Ensuring workplaces are inclusive with clear steps to ensure current and future leadership team diversity
  • A commitment to measure progress annually against 10 areas of diversity and inclusion, which were first introduced in 2020 through an inaugural report from the McKenzie-Delis Foundation
  • A promise to implement strategic diversity plans with clear accountability for CEOs and their leadership teams
  • A commitment for each CEO to share their learnings and strategic plans for the future

Each of the three leaders signed the agreement in partnership with DIAL Global, a global community for diverse inclusive aspirational leaders.

Steve Murrells, Group CEO of the Co-operative Group, said: “This is an important step towards creating diverse and inclusive workplaces for all our colleagues where they feel a true sense of belonging.

“Collectively, as CEOs and leadership teams, we know that more must be done and each of us has a responsibility to be role models and agents of change to drive true inclusion throughout our organisations, our products and services and the communities we serve.”

The three organisations hope to sign more than 100 other UK CEOs before December 2022.

For more information about the CEO Activist & Moving the Dial on Diversity Pledge, visit

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…