Igniting the conversation around diversity and inclusion at URBN (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie Group, Free People, and Vetri Family).

The EW Group was engaged by the UK & European HR Director, Emily Lofting-Kisakye, to support the business in raising awareness and a deeper understanding around the focus and change required to build a more inclusive culture across the business.

Key objectives:

  • A programme that touched staff at all levels in a short window of time to ignite the conversation on diversity and inclusion at URBN.
  • Incorporate themes and content to address issues raised that relate specifically to the fashion retail sector (cultural misappropriation, casting of models, shape, size).
  • Articulate the business benefits of diversity and inclusion and the organisation’s commitment to these values.
  • Making clear links between an inclusive culture and appropriate behaviours, ensuring everyone feels empowered to challenge direct or indirect inappropriate behaviours as they happen.

As a retailer, the one of the main challenges URBN found is the lack of diversity in its Head Office functions as opposed to Stores. Combined with this, a number of specific issues relating to how questions were phrased regarding size, shape, ethnicity of models during castings and the tone and sensitivity of internal peer to peer conversations relating to for example race, political views and religion.Through an organisation-wide programme designed to raise awareness, encourage people to consider diversity in its broadest sense and recognise the basis of an individual’s biases, we would harness greater openness and appreciation for other perspectives, building acceptance and inclusive behaviours.

EW Group’s response

Design and delivery of an Inclusive Culture programme starting with the Executive Leadership team and then cascading through Heads of department, senior managers and then all staff within the Urban Outfitters brand. The programme was then extended to include the Anthropology Leadership team and will roll out to all staff within Anthropology will take place during Q1 2020. A bespoke session was also designed and delivered for the URBN Talent team to address specific areas of systemic bias and drill down on best practice and methods to identify and remove bias.

To date 230 members of staff have worked through either a 3 hour workshop (Leaders & people managers) or a 1 hr introductory session (all staff).


Since the workshop with the Executive Leadership team, the group has met to build on the output from their session and their collective commitment to effecting positive change, prioritising areas of focus relating to both practical and strategic actions.

The London based business has recently moved to new offices which has brought all group entities into the same building and will supercharge activities around inclusion.

The Talent team continue to work on refining people management processes with the objectives of increasing diversity within the Talent pool, greater transparency within development and performance related processes and building knowledge and expertise to support senior stakeholders and staff alike to sustain this work on a day to day basis.

Measures of success – building awareness, confidence and skills in diversity and inclusion at work

Programme Evaluation Data – October 2019

  • Business case: The percentage of delegates who were sure about the reasons why diversity and inclusion are critical to company’s success increased from 39% to 82%.
  • Awareness: The percentage of delegates’ awareness of unconscious bias increased from 29% to 84%. The percentage of delegates’ awareness of impacts of unconscious bias at workplace increased from 32% to 90%.
  • Challenging others: The percentage of delegates who feel empowered to challenge direct or indirect inappropriate behaviours at workplace increased from 35% to 69%.
  • Behaviours: The percentage of delegates who have a clear idea of ways in which you can behave inclusively increased from 72% to 98%.

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