A Message from IHG CEO Keith Barr – A Time for Action: Creating an Inclusive Culture

Three IHG employees
A Message from IHG CEO Keith Barr – A Time for Action: Creating an Inclusive Culture

This weekend Global Pride 2020 marked a culmination of celebrations in June that welcome one and all in the LGBTQ+ community, and recognise everyone’s right to equality and inclusion.

These values are of course firmly in the thoughts of many right now, with people around the world coming together not just for Pride, but also to stand up to prejudice, injustice and racism, and throw a vital spotlight on the discrimination that Black communities still face in our society today. Symbolic of this, and like many other organisations, our LGBTQ+ and Black communities wanted to bring their colours together in our IHG logo and show how we as a company stand as one.

In more than 100 countries, our colleagues represent multiple nationalities, as well as the many cultures, religions, races, sexualities, backgrounds and beliefs that make the world such a vibrant place. Creating an inclusive culture that nurtures and celebrates that diversity is something we genuinely strive for at IHG. That is what Pride is all about – and whether in virtual events or celebrations in our hotels from Amsterdam and New Delhi to Toronto, I’m proud to see it come to life.

But, by its very nature diversity is a broad subject, and the many conversations we’ve had as a company have shown us that for some of our communities, specifically our Black colleagues, we have to be honest with ourselves and say we’re not where we need to be. I do believe we live the right values and as a company we have always stood against racism. Since becoming CEO, I have established global and local D&I Boards to drive important work, focused on leadership training, and supported charities promoting racial and economic equity. But I recognise that this alone isn’t bringing about the more meaningful change we want to see.

We’ve had some tough realities to face up to. A lack of cultural awareness has meant that some of our Black colleagues don’t feel included. There’s also not enough representation of colleagues from Black or other ethnic communities at senior levels of our business, which brings into question career progression and limits the number of role models we have to inspire others.

That’s not the company I feel we really are; but we need to do more to demonstrate that. So today, we are making the following commitments in the Americas to Listen & Learn, Advocate and Act:

Listen & Learn

  • Establish a program of leader-led listening and conversation sessions for corporate and hotel colleagues to gain insights and perspectives
  • Roll-out mandatory unconscious bias training for 10,000+ US corporate and managed hotel employees by the end of 2020
  • Deliver ongoing inclusive leadership learning programs and resources for people managers
  • Develop an Inclusion Index to track perception of culture and behaviors in our colleague engagement survey


  • Launch a bespoke program to develop Black leadership talent and build partnerships with organizations dedicated to the growth of our Black colleagues
  • Require diverse candidate shortlist and interview panel processes
  • Support legislation that drives change in racial justice and equity


  • Double representation of ethnically diverse colleagues in Americas based corporate leadership roles over the next four years
  • Paid day of leave for US corporate colleagues to vote in national elections; additional floating paid holiday to observe cultural and religious events or for other personal use
  • Support education, employability and empowerment in the community through partnerships with the National Urban League and National Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Offer IHG ® Rewards Club members the opportunity to donate loyalty points to support US partners that promote racial justice and equity

I know that my own route through life hasn’t included any of the barriers and experiences Black communities have faced, and so I don’t try to speak for everyone. But whatever my personal experience, I hear the challenge and I see it. As CEO, what I can do is set a clear direction for us at IHG and empower our people to make a difference. By listening to our colleagues across the business we can turn thoughts, frustrations and hopes into action, and I believe the commitments we are announcing today will put us onto a stronger path. I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this for championing change.

Wherever it makes sense we will explore how some of these commitments are extended to other markets – but it is important to first respond where the need is greatest. Our Americas home of Atlanta, Georgia is birthplace to Martin Luther King Jr. and an integral part of the history of the civil rights movement. Our values and culture must reflect that, and we must remain committed to breaking down barriers both within our company and our communities.

We’ve made our commitments clear for all to read on ihg.com, alongside sharing the resources we have, so that guests, members and others can learn more and also understand the opportunities that are out there to be a part of the change.