Employee Networking Circles Support Diversity and Inclusion at International Paper

Employee Networking Circles Support Diversity and Inclusion at International Paper

Multimedia from this Release

Gabrielle Evans, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Thursday, February 17, 2022 - 8:00am

MEMPHIS, Tenn., February 17, 2022 /3BL Media/ - With a mission to build and sustain a work environment that embraces individuality and collaboration to drive exceptional results, value different viewpoints and backgrounds, International Paper’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is a global one. The company implemented Employee Networking Circles, or ENCs, to bring people from various backgrounds across the organization together to foster this culture of inclusion.

Sit down with International Paper’s Gabrielle Evans, consultant, Diversity and Inclusion, to learn more about the value of Employee Networking Circles and how these groups are contributing to IP’s Vision 2030 goals.

Interviewer: What are Employee Networking Circles and what is their purpose?

Gabrielle: Employee Networking Circles (ENCs) are company-sponsored employee groups that contribute to an engaged, inclusive and collaborative workplace. These groups build employee connections and engagement across the organization through positive and inclusive group activities. Ultimately, ENCs are a key part of International Paper’s overarching D&I strategy. They help our company accomplish our five D&I goals: develop people capability, ensure diverse talent pools, improve retention, increase engagement and achieve our Vision 2030 representation targets. ENCs exist at every level of our company. Some examples of ENCs include diversity & inclusion councils, gender-based groups, cultural or ethnic-based groups, and experience-based groups.

Interviewer: How are ENCs supporting IP’s Diversity and Inclusion goals?

Gabrielle: ENCs help our company accomplish our five D&I goals by fundamentally supporting our three diversity and inclusion strategic pillars: workforce, workplace and marketplace. ENCs drive progress on these pillars by supporting specific business, staff group, region and facility goals. They help foster an engaged, inclusive, collaborative and diverse workplace. ENCs also play an important role in supporting our attraction, development and retention efforts and increasing our company’s reputation as a responsible employer in the marketplace.

Interviewer: Can you elaborate on how ENCs are a tool to foster a culture of inclusivity at International Paper?

Gabrielle: ENCs foster a culture of inclusivity by creating awareness of elements that are important and impactful for specific demographic groups. They create visible representation for their demographic while helping others enhance their awareness of dimensions of diversity and find avenues of allyship. ENCs exist as an open environment for any team member, regardless of their background, to participate and gain knowledge.

At IP, inclusion and collaboration are interconnected. ENCs not only foster inclusion. They actively foster engagement and collaboration with others within, outside and across the organization to accomplish business objectives. Through ENCs, participants have the opportunity to develop their inclusive and collaborative behavioral skills and leadership skills.

Interviewer: What types of ENCs currently exist at IP, and are there any plans to expand the types of groups offered in the future?

Gabrielle: We currently have 12 Employee Networking Circles at International Paper. At the global headquarters level, there is IPride, the LGBTQ+ & Allies ENC; IPVets, the Veterans ENC; IPMOVE, the ENC for Black team members; and Women in IP, the Women’s ENC. At the departmental and business level, there is GS NOW, the Global Sourcing Networking Organization for Women; IT Inclusion Council; GCF D&I Council; and Global Sourcing D&I Council. At the local level, there is Orange Mill Diversity, Georgetown Women’s ENC, Savannah Women in the Mill, and IP Wise in Federal Way. And we will continue to create new ENCs as the need grows within our company and their creation aids the accomplishment of the specific goals and objectives.  

Interviewer: What types of conversations and activities do you typically expect ENCs to lead?

Gabrielle: ENCs lead conversations and activities throughout each quarter that are meaningful to specific demographic groups and that expand others’ understanding of those groups. This means that the dialogue and initiatives vary by ENC. Some D&I Councils host discussions that resonate with multiple demographics and promote inclusion for all. IPMOVE, the ENC for Black team members, executes multiple activities and communications during Black History Month to celebrate the value that our Black team members bring to our organization. They also host other activities throughout the year that create an understanding of Black voices and perspectives as well as those outside the community. IPride, the LGBTQ+ and Allies ENC, not only hosts activities during Pride Month but they also host calls that provide specific information that is important to their demographic, such as employee benefits that support LGBTQ+ team members’ needs.

Our ENCs are also active in the communities where our team members live and work. For example, IPVets, the Veterans ENC, and IP’s Community Engagement Team works with Wreaths Across America, an organization that coordinates laying wreaths on veteran cemeteries across the nation every December. As you can see, our ENCs are actively creating meaningful programming that promotes inclusion and allyship for their specifics demographic and the company as a whole.

Interviewer: How does the Global D&I team support the success of ENCs?

Gabrielle: At IP, ENCs are an extension of the Global Diversity and Inclusion team. Our team serves as a resource and advocate for all ENCs, as we facilitate ENC collaboration and best practices sharing across the enterprise.

Specifically, in my current role, I play a key part of the continued success of the ENCs by being their main contact for D&I resources and information that aligns with our vision and mission. I meet with the ENCs to help them align their actions with a strategic plan that supports IP’s D&I goals. In my role, I can help to remove barriers and create connections so they can be successful. I also serve as a thought leader and actively work to understand internal and external partners’ diverse thoughts and best practices to advance the ENCs’ efforts and impact. Working with the ENCs expands my understanding and knowledge of diverse cultures and perspectives.

About International Paper

International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a leading global supplier of renewable fiber-based products. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods, and enable worldwide commerce, and pulp for diapers, tissue and other personal care products that promote health and wellness. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., we employ approximately 38,000 colleagues globally. We serve customers worldwide, with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, North Africa and Europe. Net sales for 2021 were $19.4 billion. In Russia, we have a 50/50 joint venture, Ilim Group, the country's largest integrated manufacturer of pulp and paper. Additional information can be found by visiting InternationalPaper.com.